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GAme Of The Week: Meet Coach Matt Dence

What do you love about coaching at your school?

The football tradition at GA is so special. 141 years of football; 135 continuous years of playing Penn Charter is as good as it gets. Very few schools have that type of history. The great thing about GA is that we are a school loaded with history, but more importantly, I think that this campus is filled with great people. When you combine the two: working with great kids/colleagues and coaching/teaching at one of the finest prep schools in the country, what’s not to love?

Best coaching moment/memory?

Any time that you can beat a league rival it is a great memory. The Inter-Ac League, in the 10 years that I have been a part of it, has grown so much as a football power. Every team is good and well-coached. I think, though, that the GA/PC rivalry is as special as it gets so when you beat them it’s extra special. It means so much to so many people. That being said, I have two moments that I must point out.

Beating PC in 2013 (42-35) in our second year at GA was unbelievable. It was a game for the ages. GA hadn’t beaten PC since 2000, so to get that win was fantastic. It felt like such a big burden was lifted from our campus. You could see it in all the people’s faces who needed that win for our community.

Also in 2016 (17-14) beating PC to win the Inter-Ac championship (first championship since 2004). It was such a great day for GA. We won the Competition Cup (convincingly) and to cap it off with that moment, was extra special. It was also the last game that Peter McVeigh would ever announce from Carey Stadium, so seeing him witness that moment with a team that he loved was very special.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Make sure that your players/students know that you care about them. It’s ok, and quite frankly necessary, to be tough and hold them accountable; they need that. However, the tough love approach never works and it doesn’t matter how smart you are if the players don’t think that you care. 

What advice would you give to middle school student hoping to play your sport in high school?

Just to have fun. It is “play” football, not “work” football. The game is hard enough and the work is as hard in football as it gets. You need to enjoy yourself. I want our kids to have fun every day. We will work hard, but we will have fun too. You need that balance in a game where you spend so much time together working hard.

Who has been your greatest coaching mentor?

I’ve been lucky to play and coach for some of the greatest football minds out there. I think that the majority of those coaches were great men who cared about other people as much as themselves. Mike Delong at Springfield College, Jack Siedlecki at Yale, Kevin Kelly at Georgetown, along with many others have made a great impact on me. I would have to say however that the greatest mentors that I had were the two head coaches that I played for: Whitey Sullivan at Father Judge High School and Rich Mannello at King’s College. These men taught me to love football and instilled a passion for the game that became my life’s work. I certainly wouldn’t be teaching and coaching for a living if it wasn’t for them. I am very thankful for them both.

What is your favorite movie?

Hoosiers. To me it’s the ultimate TEAM movie.