Like Father, Like Son: The Head Coach and Captain of the South High Football Team

Like Father, Like Son: The Head Coach and Captain of the South High Football Team

Jason Murillo, Editor-in-Chief

In 2019, father and son Coach Robert “Bob” LaRose and Captain Angelo LaRose of the South High Football Team came to South High to change the culture of sports here at the school. Since then, the football team has seen many successful seasons, especially in comparison to the school’s previous seasons before 2019 where South has seen few victories over the years. This year, the father and son duo have helped lead the team to defeat schools that the team has not defeated in decades. In addition, the team has been led to playoffs for two consecutive seasons. Coach LaRose is a 1989 graduate of South High and Angelo is a senior here at South High. Here is an interview with each of them.

Coach LaRose’s interview

Q: When you are not coaching, what do you do for a living?

LaRose: Community Risk Reduction Officer for the Worcester Fire Department. So I go to schools, and I teach fire safety to kindergarteners and second-graders. I deal with the elderly if they need support; I go to senior support team meetings. I deal with the homeless through the HelpCore initiative through the city. And I pretty much drive around all day in the city talking to people and trying to educate them on fire safety and helping people in need.

Q: What do you miss about playing for South back in 1989?

LaRose: (laughs) I miss the camaraderie, I miss the locker room, I miss practice, and obviously you miss the games, but mostly I miss just being with the guys and all the other things that go with football besides playing on gameday is really the stuff that I truly cherish that gets overlooked and all the hard work and time you spent with the guys and the bonds and friendships you make that I think they last a lifetime. That’s what I miss the most about it.

Q: What aspects of football do you get most excited about?

LaRose: I get most excited when I see the team come together, and it usually takes 7 or 8 weeks when they start playing as a team, and the improvement on the younger kids I really got a chance to see that being that this is just our third full season. But coming from that Fall 2 Season to now seeing some of the kids we played as freshmen really get their butts kicked two years ago and now they’re the aggressors and they improve so much and dramatically–that’s what gets me excited. And obviously winning games, I think this year the excitement was playing at home in front of the school. This is like a dream come true for me to have our own field here, a place I grew up, and my mom still lives right down the street. But, I spent every week and moment I could here as a kid, and to see what this facility looks like now is just off-the-chain good. So playing four home games here was really good.

Q: How do you prepare the team for an upcoming game?

LaRose: Well, we do have a calendar we follow; we try to do offense on one day and defense on another. But we speak to the coaches on Sundays, we usually speak by phone; we all break down film. What we try to do most is take away the other team’s best two or three players or their best player and we kind of stick to that either way. On offense, it’s a little more difficult because we have to prepare for a lot of different things because we don’t know how they’re going to line up against us, so we try to hit all those different types of looks that they’re going to give us during the week. And mostly just getting kids excited to play; that’s the hardest part. Sometimes, we play a team that we know we’re going to roll, and it’s hard to motivate kids to actually pay attention in classes, in practice, and do a good job. But, some teams need no motivation, so it’s easy. So, I would say the hardest thing about getting the team ready is just the motivational factor and participation in practice. It’s kind of a loaded question; I lose a ton of sleep over it, I’ll tell you that, getting this team ready to the point where I get stressed and lose a lot of weight (laughs).

Q: What is your coaching philosophy?

LaRose: My coaching philosophy, obviously is to win games because I think that helps build a program, but more importantly for me is that these young men develop into good human beings and have respect for people, treat people with kindness, work hard, and I want there to be an aftermath to high school for all these kids, and that’s really been my goal since I got here was to make sure kids when they graduate, and we haven’t graduated a lot of football players, but we have five kids playing college football from here, and that’s ultimately not the only goal, you know a kid like yourself [refering to the interviewer who is also on the football team], I think going to an Ivy League school or NESCAC, or MIT or one of those schools, having football on your resume and your experience with football, I think is only going to help you socially and emotionally in those schools, and I think to me that’s more important than anything else is preparing kids for the aftermath of this because life kind of starts at eighteen and if you do a good job for those four years, the next fifty years of your life will be easier and I truly believe that, and I wish I had done things better myself at that age, so it’s kind of learning from experience. And the other thing is I want kids to come back and stand on the sidelines with me when they graduate and be welcome and give them a hug, know their doing well, and that to me really means a lot.

Q: What do you expect of your players, and what should they expect from you?

LaRose: I expect my players… I expect a lot of things from my players, but I would say 75% of it is not even football related: it’s doing the right things in school, treating people with respect, having some goals and objectives in life, overcoming obstacles, which I think the COVID year has really thrown the kids off balance on that, and it’s really been hard catching because failure is part of life, so how they respond to failure. What should they expect from me? Fierce loyalty, fierce protection for them, fierce advocation for them in anything they want to do. That’s what they should expect from me; I’m always going to be here, consistency, I’ll show up, I do what I say, I’m going to do it. And I don’t know how else to treat a kid; if I say I’m going to do something, I’ll do it. I think kids respond to that; it goes a long way, whether they tell you that or not, I think over time as you do it, year in and year out, by the time they are sophomores and juniors, they come to expect that, they expect me to be here, you know consistency, you know, hold them accountable. I think, despite the fact that kids will tell you they don’t want to be held accountable, they do, they like structure, and the more you structure, with them having a little fun doing it, the more they react, the more we can communicate better, it makes your team a lot better.

Q: What do you like about being a coach?

LaRose: I like seeing kids succeed, I like seeing smiles on kids’ faces after games, I like being here, I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: they say a rich man has a lot of things he cannot afford, and I’m not a rich man, but every day I come here, I feel like a rich man, so that’s kind of how I feel about the whole thing, but this gives me pleasure, it really does, I know that it might be hard for people to understand but, these are the two or three hours a day that I really enjoy myself because life isn’t fun in a lot of ways, but this is fun, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but on a football field at South High, I wouldn’t coach anywhere else, for sure. No matter how much money it would be, it doesn’t matter to me. I never had money, don’t need it.

Captain Angelo LaRose’s interview

Q: What gets you up in the morning every day?

Angelo: Man. After football season, it’s definitely going to be difficult, let me tell you, but football’s literally the only thing that gets me up in the morning, that’s my only drive, my only motivation.

Q: Why did you choose to come to South High?

Angelo: I chose to come to South High because I wanted to change the culture, you know, before I came here, they were 6 and 60 in their past seasons before I got here, and I took the opportunity with my father to come and change the culture because it meant so much to me and my family. South has been a huge part of my family for a very long time, so that’s why I came to South.

Q: What aspects about football do you get most excited about?

Angelo: Hitting people. When that sting, you know that sting that you feel when you hit someone. I just love it, so much. It’s addicting: scoring touchdowns, being with the guys every day. There’s really nothing much better. It’s the best game on Earth, best game on the planet.

Q: How do you prepare yourself for an upcoming game?

Angelo: I watch a lot of film, I eat right, do a lot of homework myself, make sure I know what they’re doing all the time. Just going the extra mile, making sure my body’s right, and I’m focused all the time, so not too much of what a regular person would do. A lot of film, a lot of eating right, and a lot of taking care of my body.

Q: What are your goals as a football player?

Angelo: I would try to take on one game at a time. That’s the biggest thing, that’s my one goal is just taking one game at a time. You can’t get ahead of yourselves, and you know, do anything too crazy. Just keep one game at a time, one week at a time, one play at a time, one drive at a time, one quarter at a time.

Q: What are your plans for the future after high school?

Angelo: I’m going to go to college, get my degree, and do great for the community. You know, do what I can to get back and just give people motivation and aspire to be what they want to be.

Q: What do you like about being the team’s captain and a player in general?

Angelo: It means a lot to me that the guys respect me as someone they can look to and talk to and talk football with, and just be their brother and be their leader. Being a leader isn’t always easy, but all these guys respect me, and that’s all you can ask for as a leader. It feels really good that they do look to me as that, and I try to give back to them as much as I can, and as long as I’m doing my thing, I know they’re going to feed off that and do their own thing.