HARWICH ─ In the world of high school athletics, anything can happen, which Monomoy head football coach Ross Jatkola learned when a Connecticut prep school recently made him an offer he really couldn't refuse. At summer's end, Jatkola will become the assistant coach at Cheshire Academy, a Division 1 private school in Cheshire, Conn.
Jatkola, who came to Monomoy last fall, wasn't in the market for a new job. Instead, that job came looking for him.
“They had an opening late in the game and I have a connection with the head coach,” said Jatkola during a phone interview on Tuesday. “He reached out to me and asked if I would at least take an interview and hear him out.”
The result was an offer for not only the position of assistant football coach, but also history teacher. The job will also include housing. Jatkola said that while making the decision to leave Monomoy was difficult, the Cheshire Academy position puts him on a path toward a very promising future.
“I need something stable to take care of my family in the long run,” he said, adding that with Cheshire being a D1 program, the position will also allow Jatkola to work with top high school athletes, as well as coaches from colleges such as Michigan State, Notre Dame, and others.
Though the offer has Jatkola excited given its possibilities, he said that leaving Monomoy was more than a little challenging. He met with players on Tuesday after school to break the news.
“It was probably the hardest decision I've ever had to make,” Jatkola said. “And telling the kids today, I got a little emotional. The looks on their faces make it a very hard decision, but they were very supportive. Numerous students came up and told me how proud they are of me.”
Jatkola said he emphasized that while he might have led them as head coach, they put in the hours.
“I reinforced to them that I'm not the one who lifts the weights and runs the routes,” he said. “They know how it is to be successful now and they can take it and run with it.”
Meanwhile, Jatkola will be concentrating his efforts on serving Cheshire as the new offensive line/defensive line and run game coach, with an emphasis on strength and conditioning, which Cheshire head coach David Dykeman said was among the many reasons Jatkola was hired.
“I've known Ross now probably 20 years,” said Dykeman, who attended Dennis-Yarmouth, Jatkola's alma mater. “I knew him in high school. I recruited him to play for the University of Albany. I just know his character, his work ethic, all the incredible things he's done. He's a person I want on our staff. He's going to have an incredible impact on a lot of young people.”
Dykeman said that Jatkola's dedication to the game and its players was a huge factor in his hiring.
“I know he's an incredible role model, and he works incredibly hard at his craft,” said Dykeman. “He's taken every opportunity to learn and to grow in this profession.”
In terms of the relationship between football knowledge coupled with strength and conditioning, Dykeman said Jatkola is uniquely skilled.
“He really sees this holistically,” Dykeman said. “It's an asset that not a lot of people have. There are very few people with his knowledge of football and strength and conditioning.”
For Jatkola, the change means working with student athletes of high caliber, many of whom were recruited to play for the school, and will likely also be recruited to colleges upon graduation.
“It's a big time prep school,” he said. “They've got 16 of D1 commits already. In terms of football, just the caliber of athlete we'll be working with every day. And college coaching connections. You work their camps.”
Jatkola will work his first camp, the Michigan Satellite Camp, on June 4.
“I think the difference is that he's going to be surrounded a lot more, from the recruiting standpoint, by top players,” Dykeman said. “At the end of the day...coaching is coaching, but I just think the ability to be with some of the athletes we have, he's going to be an incredible mentor. He knows how hard it is to play college football. That experience will do nothing but benefit him here.”
Regarding his popular summer football clinics, Jatkola said since he will have a good part of the summer off, he plans to return to the Cape and hopes to still hold planned clinics, though what becomes of the impending Monomoy clinic will ultimately be up to the school.
“We're still trying to figure out what we want to do with the Monomoy one,” Jatkola said. “But nothing changes for the flag football camp that I do. In the future those will be something I want to hold onto around here.”
He will also be keeping his gym in Hyannis, Impact Performance Training Systems, though it will be operated by his sister in his absence.
In the meantime, Jatkola is setting his sights toward Connecticut, and the future.
“It's a life changer,” said Jatkola. “It's a huge step in many directions. Just the doors it opens. It's a dream come true.”