Charlie Patterson was a bit dubious of what to expect when first-year head coach Michael Coe took the reins of the football program.
After all, Coe was to be the third head coach the senior Falcon quarterback had seen in three years.
That skepticism lasted about five seconds.
“He kind of radiates positivity every day that you see him,” Patterson said. “Everyone’s really having fun playing football. That kind of induces hard work when we’re out doing it and having fun.”
The 35-year-old originally from Poulsbo was hired in late May to be South Whidbey High School’s new head football coach. Ever since then, Coe has been building excitement and putting newfound energy into a program that went 2-8 past season under former coach Chris Tormey, who left to be the linebackers coach for the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League.
Though Coe is relatively young, he makes up for it tenfold in experience. He’s coached football for the last 15 years at the high school, middle school and semi-professional level and was most recently the offensive/defensive line coach for Inglemoor High School.
He’s also an accomplished player.
Coe was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Hall of Fame in November for his merits while playing collegiately for Glendale Community College and Pacific Lutheran University, as well as several semi-professional teams around the state, where he earned multiple all-league selections as a guard and left tackle. Not relegated to the sidelines with a clipboard and a headset, Coe still plays for the semi-pro Bellingham Bulldogs.
That fresh perspective from someone who still sees the game through a face mask can go a long way, Coe says. It’s also instilled more trust into his players.
“He’s just always making sure people are having a good time out there and really keeping the energy level high,” said senior running back and linebacker Kohl Hunter. “He’s bound-determined that we’re going to be a winning team. I think we are. We’ve got important pieces to the puzzle there.”
Hunter was among the first to meet the coach during his interview process.
“Just instantly, he’s so easy to talk to, he’s super comfortable around us,” Hunter said. “I could tell him anything. He’s like a bro with us.”
Hunter played significantly his sophomore year, but missed last season due to back injuries.
He credits Coe for having reinvigorated his passion for the game.
“He just made me re-fall in love with football,” Hunter said. “It’s been a blessing. Coe, he just brings a different energy, which is perfect for high school.”
Because Coe was hired late into spring, the team didn’t attend a summer camp, which is traditionally important in determining the potential of players and laying a foundation for the season.
They’ve been making up for lost time in the weight room. With the help of his assistant coaches, Coe has been leading two-hour, twice-weekly summer workouts. The team spends an hour lifting and then heads out to the field for conditioning exercises.
Coe came in with a heavy emphasis on building the core strength of his players.
“I know in years past there has not been a huge emphasis on the weight room, if any. You cannot do that,” Coe said. “The weight room is the foundation for success on the football field. You control how strong you are.”
For all the emphasis some of the senior players put on the fun of playing football for Coe, he has done far more than that.
Coe wants to allow students to experience their own individual touch on the game. He wants them to feel success but also endure failure, and always be at their side to encourage them to get better.
“You have to make football fun,” Coe said. “It can’t be miserable.”
“Be demanding, but always be fair and always have fun at what you’re doing,” he added.
Though Coe will install fresh ideas from coaching techniques to the playbook to even new uniforms, there are certain aspects of the program that he will retain, such as the long-standing tradition of “Ohana,” which means family in Hawaiian.
Coe said he felt the team has improved tremendously since he first arrived, but still is a long way off from where he expects them to be.
Coe currently lives in Bothell and works as a paraeducator at Meadowdale High School. He plans to pursue his bachelor’s degree at Western Governors University this winter so he can become a special education teacher.