Schenectady County

‘Coach’ leaves the sidelines after nearly 60 years (with video)

After teaching and coaching children since 1952, 82-year-old Doug Erickson is simply known by one na

After teaching and coaching children since 1952, 82-year-old Doug Erickson is simply known by one name in Rotterdam.

“They just say ‘Coach’,” said Dan Lucca, who lives in Rotterdam and played against Erickson’s Draper High School football team in the 1960s.

Lucca and dozens of other people from Erickson’s coaching past were on hand Saturday morning to watch him direct his final game. As the modified coach for the Mohonasen Central School District for the last 21 years, Erickson went out with a loss in his last game, but he leaves a legacy.

“He’s had a positive influence, and I’m not exaggerating, on thousands of kids,” Lucca said. “He’s a special guy. He really is.”

After graduating from Syracuse University, where he played four years of football, Erickson began coaching in 1952 at Coxsackie-Athens High School. At Draper High School, he coached football and baseball from 1957 to 1974. After a year as an assistant varsity football coach at Linton High School, Erickson then spent 1976 to 1988 coaching Draper’s varsity football team — Draper merged with the Mohonasen district in 1988. Following one year at Niskayuna, he came to Mohonasen, where he has been coaching seventh- and eighth-graders, termed the modified level, ever since.

Erickson, who hunches over his cane on the sideline most of the game, said he had “mixed emotions” after the loss to Guilderland. During the game, his squad, which was dwarfed in numbers by Guilderland, was overmatched and gave up a couple of devastating plays.

“I like to win and I always try to win, we just didn’t come to play today,” he said. “After all these years I can recognize when it’s not there.”

Looking back on his years of coaching and hundreds of wins, he attributed his good fortune to his players. Expressing a philosophy he has espoused for decades, Erickson said his success in any game was because of the talent he had on the sidelines at that moment.

“It’s been an experience all these years, but I’m done,” he said.


After shaking hands with the opponents, all of the modified players from Mohonasen came by to say goodbye.

This was followed by a tearful line of well-wishers from Erickson’s past, who had lined up on the sidelines.

John Cunningham came up from Connecticut to see his former coach. He said it was hard to imagine anyone else matching the records and impact Erickson had on the region.

“He didn’t teach you football,” Cunningham said. “He taught you values, and that stays with you.”

Erickson was described as a “bulldog,” by Mike Eplite of Halfmoon. “Coach has a passion second to none,” he said.

Don Zarzycki now coaches at Salem High School, but from 1971 to 1975 he played football and baseball for “Coach.”

“He was tough. He got the best out of everybody who played for him and you knew he really cared for you,” Zarzycki said. “He was a player’s coach … and he was always there for you.”

At 54 years old, Zarzycki said he is proud to call Erickson a friend and said he wonders what his coach will do without coaching.

As for the possibility that anyone will recreate Erickson’s tenure, he said, “No way.”

Then, echoing comments Erickson made after the game about knowing they never had a chance today, Zarzycki said, “Coach knows what he can get out of players. He knows what kids can do. Sometimes better than they can, and he gets them to believe that, too.”

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