A Once in a Lifetime Team

Youth athletics is a great way to teach kids valuable lessons about sportsmanship and life in general. Students learn the rules of the game, but they also learn the importance of teamwork. When Mike Achilarre took over the Head Coach position of the 4th-grade team for the Morristown Wildcats in August of 2016, his goal was to take a group of young boys and build a solid team using respect and sportsmanship as cornerstones.

What he got, in the end, was so much more than he could have ever bargained for. What he ended up with was a team of exceptional young men who were able to come together to win four NJSYFL Super Bowl Championships.

From Start to Finish

Even though Coach Mike Achilarre didn’t have any kids of his own on this Morristown Wildcats team, his love of the sport was his motivation for taking the coaching position. During the first year, it was a learning experience for all involved. With the way Morristown’s youth football league is set up, Achilarre knew he would have the option to be with these kids for many years as they moved up to the next levels.

He also could have the option to let them move up without him as his sons would be coming up in the following years.  Being an athlete for most of his life, he began to put together a coaching strategy that involved several important factors. Focus, accountability, consistency, and “finishing what you start” were important lessons.

They were valuable on the field, but essential in real life. As the first year came to a close, he began to see his boys start to become true sportsmen. After one year he knew how special this team was.

What Made This Group of Kids So Special?

With youth athletics, teams usually have two or three exceptional players. This team, however, was different and it didn’t take Achilarre long to realize it. The boys with exceptional athletic skills began helping less advanced players improve. The boys were as close off the field as they were on it.

There was no bullying and no chiding if someone made a mistake. The team was made up of 30 boys. Before the end of the second year was over, they were not just a team anymore. According to Achilarre, “We became a family. There were no egos. We had boys that were true leaders.” Everyone worked together, both on and off the field. They all contributed in some way. If a boy wasn’t on the field, he was cheering from the bench or helping the coach. In all of his years of playing, Achilarre had never seen a group of boys so committed to one another.

The Opportunity to Teach Life Lessons

As the second and third years were completed, both resulting in Super Bowl Championships, Achilarre was interested in seeing how the boys would continue to mature over time. The fun and competitiveness were contagious, but as an athlete himself, he knew there was much more to it.

He wanted the boys to learn life lessons that went along with both the sportsmanship and respect he was trying to instill in them. Weekly captains were chosen. Even if boys were not starters, they all were given the chance to be the team captain and help guide the team to victory.

Coach always preached that you don’t win with just the 11 players on the field, but with all 30 players on the team.  If all the players don’t buy into a common goal you won’t be successful. In addition to teaching the boys how to be safe on the field, he also taught them how to focus and be committed to finishing everything they start.

Keeping their head up was not just a lesson about safety on the frontline, it was also a lesson about real-life that the boys all took to heart.

Taking Things in Stride

The mark of a true team is to be able to handle whatever comes your way with confidence and grace. When COVID hit in 2020, there were many who thought the season wouldn’t happen. The Wildcats took things in stride and continue to do what they did best, play football.

Although the season was somewhat shorter and circumstances sometimes called for minor changes to be made, the boys maintained their focus and held tight to their confidence. If this was going to be their last year together as a team, they were going to make it a great one. By the end of the year, they had achieved their goals and another Super Bowl Championship was in the books.

4-Time Super Bowl Champs

The Morristown Wildcats ended up winning four straight Super Bowl Championships (2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020). Winning four championships is a feat that has only be achieved a few times since the NJSYFL began back in the 1970’s.

The team ended up with a four-year record of 41 wins, 5 losses, and 2 ties. Phillip Folmar was the Super Bowl MVP for all four years. At the end of the 2020 season, the boys will be moving on to high school, but they have set a great example for all the younger players in the Morristown Wildcats program.

The legacy left behind by his team of the last four years will give his future teams something to strive for.