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Sports Person of the Week
Wilcox Starts Tenure as Head Coach of H-K Football
Former H-K football player Tyler Wilcox is the new head coach of the Cougars and began his tenure with a 27-22 win versus Old Saybrook-Westbrook last week. (Photo courtesy of Steady Photography)
After nearly two years of no football due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Haddam-Killingworth High School football program saw its head coaching position fluctuate.
Mike Baklik coached the team from 2014 to 2019 and then Erik Becker took over in the midst of the pandemic. This year, Becker was offered the head coach’s job with the Daniel Hand football team, leaving the Cougars with another opening.
Then along came Tyler Wilcox, who had been the defensive coordinator on Becker’s staff in 2020. Wilcox, a Higganum resident who played football at H-K, ultimately landed the head coaching job with the Cougars and couldn’t be happier to be leading the team this season.
“It meant everything to be hired as the head coach at H-K,” Tyler says. “I grew up in town here, went to our schools, played on this team, continued playing football in college, and found my way back to my roots. Being able to take over as head coach on the team that molded my football career felt like the right step for me.”
Tyler is already off to a stellar start with the Cougars. In Tyler’s first game as H-K’s head coach, the Cougars defeated Old Saybrook-Westbrook by a 27-22 final on Sept. 10. Despite missing 17 players due to COVID-related issues, H-K battled its way to a hard-fought victory over the rival Rams.
“My expectations for the team are high. I know they are capable of great success if hard work and determination are there,” says Tyler. “I expect the mindset that we go 1-0 every week. Our team already faced a ton of adversity heading into week one, and we were able to pull out the win. The kids know we are taking it week by week and getting them prepared for every opponent.”
After seeing H-K pull off a win in the first week of the season, Becker felt thrilled that Tyler got a victory in his good friend’s debut as Cougars’ head coach.
“I am so pumped for Tyler. So proud of him,” Becker says. “It was a huge opening win against Old Saybrook. I have so much love for him and that program.”
So far, Tyler has been looking for numerous different ways in which he can improve upon his coaching style. Tyler, 30, says that he’s always open to change and willing to listen if someone has advice.
“My expectations are to lead by example and be a coach that my players can lean on when things aren’t going well—not just on the field, but in life in general. It’s a young group that is inexperienced in some areas, so we are going to coach the heck out of them,” says Tyler. “Most of our coaching staff work at H-K, so we’re all teachers at heart. We are familiar faces on and off the field for them, which I feel helps to build positive relationships among this team. Good teachers make great coaches.”
One of Tyler’s biggest inspirations while growing up was Rob Grasso, a former head coach of the H-K football team. Grasso asked Tyler to help coach a youth program as a senior in high school, and Tyler has been on the sidelines ever since.
“He was very instrumental in putting together Mike Baklik’s staff at H-K when Mike took over in 2014. He always says, ‘If you’re going to do anything, do it the right way and give it 110 percent or don’t even bother.’” Tyler says of Grasso. “I feel I adopted that mindset years ago and want to instill that same mindset in my players. Hard work and dedication are big in my book. I’ve known Rob for 16 years now and can definitely say he has been the most influential in my football career as a player and coach.”
Outside of coaching, Wilcox is a special education teacher at H-K and enjoys spending time with his wife Anna and daughter Madelyn.
“Daughter number two is on the way,” says Tyler. “I love spending time with my family outside of work and also enjoy fishing, hunting, and working out. Those are my main hobbies and have been my entire life.”