MAHOPAC, N.Y.— The Indian Pride program was born on a rainy Saturday as a mob of Mahopac varsity, JV and freshmen football players washed cars from 8-2 p.m.
“One of the things about success in a football program is leadership,” Mahopac first year head coach Mark Langella said. “But leadership is not taught during the football season, it’s taught before the season starts.”
The group raised $1,237 for the upcoming Relay for Life event at Mahopac Firehouse.
“Mahopac is a special town,” Langella said. “People pulling in with the rain to get their car washed and not looking to get their car washed. They are looking to give a donation to Relay For Life.”
The program entails all of the senior players developing platoons of about 10 underclassmen players each. There are about 11 platoons in total.
“In order to become a leader, you have to practice to become a good leader by working with the small groups first,” Langella said. “Once all the small groups are established, then we can make one large team of leaders.”
Each platoon wears a different colored t-shirt, as they all represent the program. The platoons are given manual volunteer activities during the preseason to compete against each other for the most points at the start of the year.
“By the kids competing with each other to see who does the most community service, they learn about each other,” Langella said. “The seniors are coordinators of the events in that they make sure everybody is taking part in the event.”
Prizes such as restaurant gift cards and local store discounts will be awarded to the top three platoons. Participating in the community service events are not the only way players earn points.
“When they attend weight and agility training they get points,” Langella said. “They get points for academics too. If a team member gets a 100 on their test, they get three points for their team. A 90 is two points, and an 80 is one point. We have to be proud of what we are accomplishing in the classroom.”
All County Pest Control sponsored and organized the original event. The owner of the company, Ed Binns, was instrumental in helping Langella make his idea of the program a reality.
“He asked me to help with the community outreach stuff so that the kids can get a well-rounded experience,” Binns said. “That’s the ultimate goal. It’s not just playing football.”
This event is only the beginning for the young program. The student-athletes will help set up the events before Relay For Life begins on Friday night. The boys are also going to plant flowers at Town Hall in Carmel next weekend.
“In turn it’s a win for everybody,” Langella said. “It’s a win for the community, and a win for the seniors to learn how to be leaders. We made mini-teams, and we’re not doing it for the whole team. We are doing it for the community as members.”
The program’s inception is a great change for players that have been playing football for a few years without it.
“I like what we’re doing with the new program,” senior quarterback Andrew Ryan said.
The program includes grades 9-12 and has already been bringing the boys together to bond.
“It’s a great way to get the younger kids to become friends with the older kids,” junior Alec Diorio said.
Langella’s son Frankie, a 2011 graduate of Mahopac, played football throughout his years in high school.
“It’s not just about football anymore,” Frankie Langella said. “It’s trying to make them better academically, better to the community, better as a person. This whole program enhances the development of young men. If we had this program when I was around it would bring the whole program together.”
Frankie Langella knows that his father could not have done it without great support.
“You bring change with just one person,” Frankie Langella said. “My dad had an idea, but got help from a number of people like the superintendent, athletic director and the school board that believed in him. Important people in the community like Mr. Binns and Parents Association President in Mr. Ryan. It’s a great change to the program because this program struggled for the last couple of years not just on the field but in the community.”
Father and son hope that the uplifting program will be for many more years to come in helping Mahopac’s adolescence grow into adulthood.
“Everybody thinks coaching is about winning,” Mark Langella said. “It’s about developing young men.”