Old Colony Regional Vocational-Technical High School has something special going on in the athletic department.
For the second time in the last three years, the Cougars have been awarded the Division II Walter J. Markham Award. The honor was also bestowed upon them in 2017-18 when they had the best win-loss record among all Division II vocational schools in the state, of which there are 18.
“We had a lot to live up to,” Old Colony Athletic Director Matt Trahan said. “Sustained success is extremely difficult and it’s nice to see that our kids are putting in that extra effort. I think that over the last couple years we’ve had some really strong kids that have come through and set the table for our juniors and seniors.”
Of course, the Cougars had their 2020 spring season cut short so they were not able to match their 121 wins of 2017-18. However, they did post a better winning percentage in 2019-20 after coming out on top in 92 of their 150 contests as a program (92-56-2) to top their 58.6 winning percentage of 2017-18 (121-83-3).
“The kids want to deliver,” Trahan said. “It just goes to show you what you can do when you put your mind to it and you put in the effort.”
While there has been a natural succession to the student body over the last two years, the freshmen and sophomores of 2017-18 grew into the juniors and seniors of 2019-20. The other constants in Old Colony’s sustained success have been the coaching staff and the athletic director.
“It absolutely starts at the top (with Trahan),” Old Colony football and softball coach Brandon Mendez said. “Things like clarity (and) consistency definitely start there. And true leadership – you’re looking at a guy who’s done it, who started as a freshman and (junior varsity) coach. He paid his dues and worked his way up, created success in his own program with basketball and he’s got a formula. He’s a very effective communicator with the coaches and kids.
“We all truly believe in his mission. We treat kids like young adults, we don’t treat them like kids. They’re one step away from the workforce, the military or college. (Trahan) truly believes that. He doesn’t force it on us, but we truly believe that as well and we understand as coaches that’s a recipe for success.”
Part of that change in culture also includes a focus on success. While Mendez notes participation and sportsmanship are still important to the Old Colony athletic department, the Cougars work to have a chance to win every single game in every single sport.
“Now we’re at a level where we expect to be competitive,” Mendez said. “That really falls onto the kids because they know what it takes now. They know (that they’re) no longer a stepping stone. Now people are coming to beat Old Colony so they have to work even harder in preparation and focus to continue to be at the level.
“The kids have done a phenomenal job. The work ethic and the dedication the kids show is second to none. It’s a reflection of the school and the culture and what the athletic department has really laid out.”
For all the praise Trahan has received from athletes and coaches over the years, he too sees how much work his student-athletes put in to thrive in every manner possible.
Much like when he was named Athletic Director of the Year by the MIAA and the Massachusetts Secondary Schools Athletic Directors Association in the year that Old Colony won its first-ever Markham Award, Trahan gives all the credit to Old Colony’s student-athletes and the Cougars’ coaching staff.
“The kids do a lot of the heavy lifting; you can lead them to water, but they have to drink it,” he said. “I think that they ended up doing that. It’s evident in the way they attack their sports. … They’re believers. They believe that they can win every game. They believe that when they get to the tournament that they belong there. They make noise and win vocational championships. It’s all about believing in yourself and your coach.”
By Nick Friar