Sports Person of the Week
Cohen Lives His Dream by Coaching for the Warriors
Phil Cohen is back with the Valley Regional-Old Lyme football squad six years after playing quarterback for the Warriors. Phil, a physical education teacher at Old Lyme High School, serves as a scout and offensive assistant on Head Coach Tim King’s coaching staff. (Photo courtesy of Phil Cohen )
Phil Cohen is making his return to the Valley Regional-Old Lyme (VR-OL) football team in an assistant coach’s role this fall. A graduate of Old Lyme High School, Phil played for the Warriors from 2010 through 2013, helping VR-OL reach the Class M state semifinals as the starting quarterback in 2013. Now, Phil rejoins the Warriors as an assistant offensive coach and scout, and he’s hoping to help Head Coach Tim King’s club make a deep run in 2019.
It’s a dream come true for Phil to be back with the Warriors. When Phil was a freshman at Old Lyme, he figured out what he wanted to do for his career: become a physical education (P.E.) teacher. Knowing that, Phil had an easy decision when he chose his major at Westfield State University in Massachusetts, where he continued to play football. After graduating from college earlier last year, everything seemed to fall into place for Phil.
“My freshman year of high school, I said that wanted to come back to Old Lyme and be a P.E. teacher. I was a substitute teacher to get my foot in the door, and a full-time position opened up this summer,” says Phil, who lives in Old Lyme. “When I got it, I was pumped. I knew right away I wanted to coach football. Coach King was pushing for me to do it, too. I got my coaching certification, and here we are.”
Instant success seems to be a theme for Phil, who had a notable first game with VR-OL during his freshman year. As he gained more experience, Phil continued working his way into a more prominent role within the Warriors’ offense.
“The coaching staff threw me into a game against Old Saybrook as a freshman, and I got a touchdown in that game. I was always young for my grade, so I was 13 when I scored that touchdown,” Phil says. “I was on special teams my sophomore year, and that helped me get used to the speed of high school football. My junior year was when I started at quarterback. I never played quarterback before that, but I always had a solid arm. The whole coaching staff really helped me out big-time.”
Phil is taking on a lot of responsibility as a member of the VR-OL coaching staff. Phil has plenty of on-field duties during each game. Off the field, he is constantly scouting Pequot Conference rivals and helping to develop the Warriors’ game-plans.
“I would say that I’m an offensive quality control coach. I’m scouting ahead and watching as much film as I can. On the field, I get the plays called into me, and I signal them to the field. I’m in charge of some of the personnel changes in the backfield on offense,” says Phil. “We were a bit rough around the edges in game one, but game two, we had no personnel penalties or delay of game penalties. We’re looking to limit the penalties that we can control as a coaching staff.”
Phil also functions as the point of contact on the sidelines for Warriors’ quarterback Jack Cox. Phil says that the two of them have already developed a great rapport, and he believes the future is bright for the junior QB.
“During the game, I have the direct connection with Jack Cox. Jack is amazing. I think he has the ability to be an All-State quarterback,” Phil says. “Jack’s going to get better week after week. I told him that he’ll even be able to see it play after play. He’s understanding his role in the offense. Jack is really great at managing the game.”
Coach King is already seeing the benefits of bringing Phil into the fold on his coaching staff. It’s important to welcome new points of view in any successful organization—and a football team is no different.
“Phil’s young, energetic, and has a great football mind. Quarterbacks have to be students of the game, and Phil was that with us. Then he went off to Westfield and played four years there,” says King. “Phil’s learned a lot at both levels. He’s really helped us with some route concepts. He’s brought some fresh air to the staff.”
So far, so good for Phil and the Warriors, who are off to a 2-0 start to their season. Phil thinks that some of this success comes from the environment that the players and coaching staff are fostering this year. The Warriors are a close-knit group, and that makes it much easier to play hard for one another.
“I am just so fortunate that we’ve developed such a great bond, and the staff has really welcomed me with open arms,” Phil says. “I think the players notice that and see how the coaches interact. They see that this is a really tight family that we’re trying to push at Valley.”
Phil had a great time competing for the Warriors week after week. As he begins this new endeavor, Phil hopes that he can help his athletes have the same type of positive experience that he had in the program.
“My high school career playing quarterback was the best time of my life. I loved playing at Westfield, but it doesn’t compare to high school football and the Friday night lights atmosphere,” Phil says. “The family bond is so much greater than at any other level. High school football days are the best. So, I just love being back at this level and being able to coach.”