Hathaway provides stability for Slippery Rock High School
In sports, few stories are as exhilarating as a team going from worst to first.
At Slippery Rock High School, the football program was coming off a 2-8 season and was to hire its fourth head coach in three seasons.
The year was 2010, and the man hired to turn things around was Brendan Hathaway, who had played football for Shaler High School and Edinboro University.
Hathaway took a break from football and joined the Marine Corps. Once he finished his military service, he went back and earned his teaching degree.
When he took over at Slippery Rock, the program was in flux. It had been successful in the past, but a revolving door of coaches starved the program of the critical element of consistency. But, to be consistent, one must first presevere, and Hathaway's first season had its share of tough times. The team went 0-10, tallying two fewer wins than the season before, but the new head coach called on his previous coaching experience to help the team make remarkable strides.
Prior to arriving at Slippery Rock, Hathaway was at Coudersport, where he coached as an assistant under Pennsylvania Coaches Hall of Famer Paul Simcoe. That team advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals and semifinals while Hathaway was on staff. The key to successful runs each year was simple on the surface, but took time to lay the foundation.
“The kids need stability,” Hathaway said. “You need to be consistent year in and year out, and high school football comes down to hard work in the off season.”
Upon his arrival at Slippery Rock, Hathaway put a ninth-grade program in place, and then put in his version of the option offense, beginning with the youngest level of football and running it the same at every level up to varsity.
“Once we got that in place, the kids started to improve,” he said.
One of those improving players was captain Chris Reeseman, the team's leading receiver and defensive back.
“When coach Hathaway got here, he didn't really know the team,” Reeseman said. “He started to really become a coach that first year and used his military background to bring a demanding (setting) to the team. That was good. Then, he brought in a new staff with a lifting coach, and we all responded to that. It helped us in the offseason and things came together.”
Reeseman was a freshman on the 0-10 team. The team improved to 7-3 the following season, then 9-1. In 2013, the team went undefeated during the regular season and was 10-0 before losing to General McLane in the District 10 semifinals.
“It is crazy,” Reeseman said. “When I was on that 0-10 team I felt so small. Now, as a senior it is unbelievable to be an undefeated team. This just builds our confidence.”
The progression is gratifying for Hathaway as well, and not just for the win total.
“To see the seniors and how they bought in and built this program, their work is unbelievable,” Hathaway said. “I told them that the wins are earned over the summer, not during the season.”
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.