High school football team makes state history with first female head coach
It’s been a history-making season for one high school football team in Western Connecticut, but not because of their record.
The MCW United football team is in its fourth season and still chasing its first win. The co-op, made up of Wolcott Tech in Torrington, Housatonic Valley in Falls Village, and Wamogo in Litchfield, has gone 0-37 since forming in 2016.
But this year the team has a new coach who knows a thing or two about breaking down barriers.
Jennifer Stango Garzone is the first female head high school football coach ever in Connecticut. Garzone grew up in nearby Oakville, playing street football with some of the kids in her neighborhood. After college, she got to take her love of the game semi-professional, playing for several teams in New England—experience she’s now passing on to MCW.
“80% of our players have never played football until they came to high school so it’s a lot of fundamental teaching, a lot of growing pains if you will,” Garzone says.
“It's just a good environment to be around her,” explains freshman Jordan Davis.
“She knows what she's doing,” adds senior Jacob Waldron.
“Everybody made a big deal about it. Her being the first, you know, female coach, but it doesn't make a difference to any of us,” says senior Dylan Crump.
Garzone became an assistant football coach for Wolcott Tech in 2012, then took over MCW’s head coaching job this year when the previous coach stepped down. And how's this for dedication? When she got married two years ago, she and her husband picked the bye week. Franco Garzone understood. After all, he's at every home football game, but in the booth calling the action.
“It’s a family affair,” laughs Garzone. “The pack and play is up in the booth with him with Baby G.”
Garzone is a new mom to 7-month-old Genevieve, though she's getting extra practice leading this team.
“They’re preparing me for what I’m going to see when my daughter's a teenager, and I'm preparing them to make positive life choices,” she says.
That includes refusing to give up after another blowout loss. And while getting a victory is still a goal, it’s not the number one priority for Garzone.
“I love being able to have an impact on young adolescents' lives—build some character, build some integrity and some discipline,” she tells us.
“Coach makes sure we're all together. We all have really good relationships," says Davis.
“I've gone through some hard times myself and like the team has always been here for me,” explains Waldron. “It's a family.”