(Christina Luna photo for boston.com)
The Charlestown Townies football team has seen the highs turn to lows -- from winning the 2008 Eastern Football League Championship, to ending last season with a 0-10 record.
Enter Donnie Williams, the newly appointed head coach of the semi-pro team, who is determined to inject new life, and a dose of discipline, into the one-time championship contenders.
"The biggest challenge is the lack of structure, the lack of discipline," said Williams, a no-nonsense former coach of the Boston Ravens team, also in the Eastern league. "A lot of times, the players want to call the shots. When that happens, you have too many Indians and not enough chiefs.”
Williams sees great promise in the Townies, which began pre-season practices this month and will begin its 10-game regular season at the end of June. He said he hopes to earn the trust of the players and to cultivate a team-building interdependence and bond.
Some of that, he said, will be forged through his tough-love approach.
“If practice starts at 8 p.m. and one of my guys comes walking up to the field without hustling, that’s a problem,” he said. "You can delegate authority -- but you can’t delegate responsibility."
Williams stepped in to replace outgoing coach Ryan Sullivan. Ripe off a three-year post coaching the Boston Ravens, he brings a solid track record: The Ravens had a winning season last year and made it to the quarterfinals.
He is already getting to know each player personally, he said, and hopes to help each one develop his game. Most of the players are in their mid-20s -- former high school and college athletes who continue to love to play. The team has seen a number of players retire in recent years, resulting in a shrinking roster.
“They have to learn one coach. I have to learn 45 individuals,” Williams said of the Townies, among the oldest semi-professional football teams in the country. “I believe in giving each player an opportunity."
Kori Brown, a Townie for the last nine years, said he is confident that the team will make a comeback.
“I’m looking forward to being on a team that hit rock bottom and work our way up," said Brown, who works for a technology staffing company. "I feel like we’re going to be extremely competitive this year.”
This article was reported and written under the supervision of Northeastern University journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel (email@example.com), as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.