ARLINGTON, Mass. -- Growing up in a football enviornment was there any doubt as to whether or not John Dubzinski, Jr. would become a football coach and take his spot in the family coaching legacy?
After serving as an assistant coach at Leominster, Everett and Medford, Dubzinski knew he had the proper credentials and resume to run his own program.
That dream was fulfilled two years ago when he was handed the keys to the Arlington High School football program. Upon accepting the position, one of the first decisions he made was bring his father, John Dubzinski Sr., on board as an assistant.
Dubzinski Sr. is a Massachusetts football coaching legend, having spent the last 25 years guiding a highly-successful Leominster High squad. He cemented a solid record of 181-92-2, which included five Super Bowl titles.
Prior to his time with the Blue Devils, Dubzinski Sr. ran the show at Fitchburg High for five seasons. His list of accomplishements earned him induction into the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006, going in with his brother, Walt Dubzinski Jr., who has been the front man at Gardner High School since 1986. Walt Dubzinski Jr’s grandfather, Walt Dubzinski Sr., is another legendary figure, having served as the head coach at Gardner from 1945-1965. He, like his sons, is also Hall of Famer member, inducted in 1970.
Two of John Dubzinski Jr’s cousins, Michael and Steven, hold their spots in the family coaching tree. Michael is head coach at Wachusett Regional High. Steven assists his father Walter in Gardner, and is also the varsity boys' basketball coach at Leominster High.
Not a bad pedigree for Dubzinski to grow up in.
When John Dubzinski Sr. was not retained as the Blue Devils coach two years ago, it happened to coincide around the same time of his son's hiring. These events immediately began the process for the younger Dubzinski to bring his father into the fold at Arlington.
“For me, it's huge having him here,” Dubzinski Jr. said. “I am a history teacher at Everett so I don’t get practices here until 3 o’clock. My dad gets here around 2 o’clock and already has the kids on the field and the practice schedule is up. Everything is ready to go by the time I get here and it’s one less thing I have to worry about.”
The thought of father and son coaching together had always lingered in the back of Dubzinski Sr's mind. However, he admits he wasn't sure if it would ever come to fruition.
“I always had that notion in the back of my head,” he said. “I felt what a great way for me to finish up my coaching career. John worked with me for one year at Leominster, and I really enjoyed that. With him getting the Arlington job last year I felt it was close enough for me (a 50-minute drive from his home in Leominster) to get down here in the afternoons. Fortunately, I had retired from teaching and had some time on my hands. It’s really been a great experience for me here and I am truly enjoying every minute of this.”
Growing up in a football household, Dubzinski Jr. tried to accumulate as much knowledge as he could about football and coaching styles and philosphies. Now with his No. 1 confidant working alongside him, Dubzinski Jr. says there will always be a spot for his father for as long as he wants to continue coaching.
“At the time I was always going for a head coaching job and my father was still coaching in Leominster,” said Dubzinski Jr., who played his college ball at Bates. “If we were ever able to coach together at some point I said to myself if it happens, it happens and if it doesn’t then it doesn’t. But deep down I knew someday he would help me out. As it turned out things fell into place perfectly and it has worked out well for both of us.”
Playing under the tutelage of his father at Leominster is where Dubzinski Jr. developed his ambition to someday become a head football coach. For him, it never was just about running a program, it was about wanting to follow in the footsteps of his father. He says the primary factor behind it all was an opportunity for him to teach kids not only about the game of football, but life lessons as well. It is those values and principles he says he attained from his father.
“I feel the difference a coach can make in someone’s life and the impact that you can make will last a lifetime,” he said. “The main reason I wanted to get into coaching was to try and be a positive influence on kids. I want to try and give these kids the skills in helping them become good fathers, good husbands and good members of the community. If I, as well as my coaches, can do that here at Arlington then we’ve done our jobs. If we win a few games along the way then that's an added bonus."
Dubzinski Jr. goes on to say, “through my father and my family I learned about hard work, discipline,working in a team environment towards one goal, dealing with winning and dealing with losing. All of those things remain with you throughout your entire life. Playing football at Leominster I feel has made me who I am today. It really shaped my personality. It’s pretty cool growing up in football family like I have.
"All of them, my father, my grandfather, my uncle and my cousins, have all helped me develop my philosophies in how to handle kids, etc. I listened to all of them and just soaked it all in like a sponge. I have my own personality but it is the lessons I learned from all of them, as well as (Everett head coach) John DiBiaso, that have helped me become who and what I am today.”
Even though he retired as a teacher, Dubzinski Sr knew he was not ready to step away from football just yet. The unforseen circumstances regarding his termination at Leominster are in the past now. The bitterness from it has since subsided and he now considers it a closed chapter of his life. In retrospect, the chance to coach with his son played an intracle part in the healing process and has rejuvenated his passion to coach.
“I’m very proud of him,” said the elder Dubzinski of his son. “He’s doing a wonderful job here. He’s a very good coach. If you read what he wrote in his high school yearbook, he said he wanted to coach, he wanted to teach and he wanted to be just like his father. He has accomplished those goals. He has taken over a rebuilding project here. It’s a difficult job yet it’s also a very rewarding job to try and get this program on the right track.
"The kids and other coaches here have all been wonderful. The parents and the community have also been great. I’m having a lot of fun here. My wife (Donna) said to me ‘You would go out of your mind if you weren’t coaching.’ She was right. She is very happy that our son is doing what he wants to do and she is happy for me that I’m still doing what I want to do. I think when you work with young people you, yourself, tend to think younger too. You aren’t an old man when you are around and working with these young people everyday.”
Dubzinski Jr says Spy Ponder players refer to Dubzinski Sr, age 64, as "Daddy Dubs." His responsibilities here are coaching the offensive line and assisting on the defensive side of the ball.
“Anytime you have someone who has coached as long as my father has you always want to lean on him regarding various situations and strategies especially when you might be unsure about something,” Dubzinski Jr. said. “He has been such a valuable resource to me. It is truly great having him here with me."