Hurricanes welcome football veteran from Vermont to coaching staff
September 10, 2013
Charlottetown, PE – When Dennis Sweet retired from Lyndon Institute, Vermont, as Dean of Faculty after almost 40 years at the prestigious private school, he thought he was leaving behind a connection to football that spanned more than four decades. But that was not the case.
A casual conversation at his local golf course resulted in Sweet joining the volunteer coaching staff for the Holland Hurricanes Football Club.
“I had read about the Hurricanes in the paper, and a couple of people at the golf club suggested that the team would be interested in my experience and abilities,” he said.
Given that Sweet spent 18 years as head coach at the Lyndon Institute, won more than 100 games, took the team to five state championship games, and had five players become National Football Foundation Hall of Fame award winners, “interested” may be something of an understatement, according to Hurricanes president Mike O’Grady.
“We were very excited about meeting Coach Sweet, and were thrilled that he was interested in joining our program as an assistant coach. His expertise and philosophy toward coaching is going to be a tremendous asset to the team this season. Dennis not only coached for more than four decades, he also taught coaching at Lyndon State College. We feel very privileged to have him on our staff,” he said.
In addition to being a head coach, Sweet has also coached the offensive and defensive lines, and been an offensive and defensive coordinator, a quarterback coordinator, and a scout.
He incorporates the strategies he used as a social studies teacher to keep players engaged and focused during their practice sessions.
“Good coaching is teaching, making sure that they are mentally with us,” he said. “Players need to be able to focus on what you are demanding of them. They can’t do that if all they’re thinking about is how hot and uncomfortable they are.”
Affable and friendly though he may be, Sweet puts the players through their paces during training.
“He definitely keeps them focused,” said Mike O’Grady. “There’s very little downtime during practice.”
Coach Sweet likes what he’s seen of the Hurricanes so far this season, and notes that the practices are efficient and well run.
“They’re a diverse group of students, and eager to learn,” he said, noting that the difference between Canadian Football rules, by which the Hurricanes play, and American Football rules will make little difference to the training. “They’ll practice the same blocking and tackling and fundamentals, it makes no difference how many players are on the field.”
Sweet said that the reason he was able to be so involved in football for so many years was the support of his wife Brenda, who also retired this spring.
“Brenda would travel to our away games and drive back alone in order to get the team’s shirts to the laundromat as soon as possible. By the time I’d get back with the team, she’d be folding them ready for the next day’s game,” he recalled.
Citing her years of dedication to the game, Sweet said he owes it to Brenda to limit the amount of time he spends on football now that they’re retired.
“As education professionals, we’ve always had our summers off, so we’re just beginning to feel ‘retired’ now,” he said, adding that this means they will be able to stay on the Island into the fall. “I’m looking forward to the season and working with the players and coaches.”
The Hurricanes will play their season opener against the Saint John Seawolves at the Canada Games Stadium in Saint John, N.B., September 14 at 4 p.m. The first home game for the Hurricanes is on Sunday, September 22 at 1 p.m. at the UPEI Alumni Canada Games Place.
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