On Dec. 9, Fenwick named Matt Battaglia as its 16th varsity football head coach in the program’s 90-year history. Before taking over the reins of the team, Battaglia was an offensive lineman at Northern Illinois University from 2010-13. He went on to be an assistant coach at Marist High School and was Kent State’s offensive line coach this past season.

After taking care of his Bowl game duties, Battaglia is settling into his new role as assistant athletic director. He caught up with Wednesday Journal about his future at the school and how he got to this point.

Wednesday Journal: What drew you to take this position at the school?

Battaglia: Being a high school head coach has been a goal of mine even when I went the college route. A part of [the decision to go to Kent State] was to develop more as a coach to where if a good opportunity presented itself that I could separate myself from other candidates and have as much success as possible.

The thing about Fenwick that really stuck out is that in its 90-year history, Heisman winners have come through here and there is such a deep tradition here with football, but also with academics and the Catholic education aspects. It reminds me of my roots at Marist High School. I wanted to coach at a place that was similar to that.

WJ: How did the process work? Did Scott Thies reach out to you or did you reach out to the school?

Battaglia: I was in the market for a job. Just looking at how things were shaping out at Kent State, it didn’t seem there were going to be any in-house jobs opening up. I was in town and Kent State didn’t know who the Bowl opponent was going to be, so I took the opportunity to see my girlfriend, nieces and nephews. Scott called me and asked if I could talk [about the position] and it was just one of those things where timing was very important and it worked out.

WJ: Were you trying to find a job closer to home?

Battaglia: The thing about college football is that you never know where you are going to be in the next year. One thing for me was, wherever I did go, I wanted to be closer to home because family is so important to me. I have six—going to be seven—nieces and nephews and I felt like I was falling out of their lives and wanted to stay closer to them and maybe be able to coach them as well. I would love to be “Uncle Coach” or “Coach Uncle” if that is possible.

WJ: During your introductory meeting with the community last month, you talked about implementing a new scheme. What were your takeaways from what you saw in film from last year’s team that you might want to add to your new scheme?

Battaglia: When it comes to schematics, you really have to be flexible — more so at the high school level. Every year, you have to make the team its own. At the college level, you get to pick who you recruit and the type of athlete you want. At the high school level, you are getting a mystery box every year because you don’t know how these kids are going to develop or how their bodies are going to change. So you are going to have your base and core concepts but every team is going to be its own.

WJ: When you look at last year’s talent, what do you make of it working within your scheme?

Battaglia: I see a lot of talent and a lot of speed that we are going to be able to work with. We have a lot of playmakers who we want to get the ball in their hands in space. That’s the biggest thing: get speed in space. They did a good job of that last year which happens naturally when you have those type of athletes. It’s my job to develop them properly and it’s easy to forget that some of these guys were sophomores and juniors last year. Developing them this offseason is a priority but I can’t speak too much for what they can do on the field until I can see them up front in the summer.

WJ: In the introductory meeting, you talked about how you can help get these kids to where they want to: playing at the college level. You played three years at NIU and have relatively recent experience playing college ball. Do you feel like that helps you as you try to develop this group of kids?

Battaglia: The best thing I have learned is that you have to treat people not as who they are now but what they can be. I cherish that idea. That’s the way I want to coach these guys. I want them to be motivated to be the best people that they can be and for them to see that.

In term of them setting goals, I have learned the innerworkings of college recruiting and that way we can create a path for the guys that want to compete at the next level. They can give me their dream schools, realistic schools and fall back schools and we can focus on getting them closer to those goals.

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