Q&A with New Jersey State Champion Coach Nunzio Campanile

By Tommy Rothman

Bergen Catholic football is coming off a heck of a season. The Crusaders just won their first state championship since 2004 with a 44-7 victory in the final at MetLife Stadium. Recently, their coach took some time to chat with FNF Coaches about sustaining success:

What are the keys on the field when it comes to sustained success in high school football from year to year?

“In high school, player development is everything, because you’re going to lose players every year. And the truth is from a physical maturity standpoint they usually only have a one- or two-year window where they’re ready to be varsity players, so on the field the investment has to be made while they’re freshmen and sophomores. As a coach, you have to do more than just coach the varsity players or your top 22 guys; you have to make it a priority to coach every player in your program so that when their opportunity comes they are prepared. That’s a big part of having sustained success on the field.”

What sort of rituals or habits do you stress this time of year to help make a consistent winner?

“The first thing is showing up. We put our kids in weight-training teams, and we try to make competition in it. The players draft the teams, and we try to make it competitive. One part of it is improvement in the weight room, but that’s the least important or the least weighted, because it’s the hardest to gauge. We really try to stress that the No. 1 thing they’re graded on in their weight-training teams in the offseason is their academics, then second their attendance, then their performance, and we also have a conditioning test at the end that we try to make very competitive. We give prizes to the winners, and there’s kind of punishments for the losers. Because we try to let our guys know, there’s a winner and a loser every day. We’re trying to teach accountability, we’re trying to teach leadership.”

What would you say is different about your program’s strength and conditioning?

“Well, last year we brought in a strength coach, a guy named Mike Guadango, and Mike was phenomenal. One of the big things that he’s a proponent of is building strength through speed work and speed development, so we do a lot of speed development and we use that to help build strength. At the same time to limit injuries, we probably had the healthiest team we’ve ever had. We also probably had the fastest team we’ve ever had. I was amazed at how strong we got. At the beginning we were doing so much running that the kids were like, ‘When are we gonna lift?’ But as they saw themselves get stronger over a six-, seven-month period, they really were like, ‘Wow.’ And when you look at the results, and you’re in the state championship, and you win, and you kept your players healthy, I think that’s a huge factor. So that was probably one of the biggest things that separated us. We’re not trying to squat and bench 500 pounds, we’re trying to make the best and healthiest athletes.”



Avoiding a “Championship Hangover”

Campanile hasn’t been faced with the challenge of repeating as state champion since 2005, but he has a game plan for 2018.

“It’s always a major concern, and it’ll be a different position for our kids,” Campanile said. “It’s our job to make them understand that, one, you’re never a finished product, you’re always getting better. And the other part, I think one thing about high school football is, it’s a new team every year. You have new leaders, you have new seniors, some guys that are coming in who have never played before … some guys who, now that they’ve played, they have to manage to stay humble and always look to get better.”

Campanile also doesn’t like wins and losses serve as the end-all, be-all as a measure of success.

“When you focus on the process rather than the result, you have a great chance to keep those guys focused on getting better every day,” Campanile said. “The difference between winning and losing, in our league, it’s minimal.”

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