Becker Lands Dream Job as Head Coach of Hand Football
By By Dean Bibens
03/20/2021 09:52 p.m. EST
Erik Becker fondly remembers speaking with Steve Filippone when he was a middle schooler who was preparing to put on a helmet and pads for the Hand football program. Filippone, who was Hand’s head coach at the time, told Becker, “Son, you’re going to be a Tiger someday.”
Well, Filippone was right as Becker did go on to play football for the Tigers before graduating from Hand in 1996. Becker went on to serve as head coach of Hand’s freshman football team and later became the offensive coordinator with the varsity squad, helping the Tigers win two Class L state titles while serving in that capacity.
Now, Becker is coming back to Hand—this time as head coach of the Tigers’ varsity team. Becker was named the fourth head coach in Hand football history on March 16 and said that getting that position is everything he could have hoped for.
“The interview process went great. I was looking forward to this, and getting the opportunity to interview for the school I played at in high school is a dream come true,” said Becker, 43. “It was my job to show that I deserved this position. I’m never afraid to work hard and get better, and I couldn’t be more excited to get started.”
Becker’s new coaching gig at Hand comes one year after he took the job as head coach of the Haddam-Killingworth football team. Unfortunately for Becker and the Cougars, they were unable to play any games last fall after the 2020 football season was canceled due to COVID-19. Although he never coached a game at H-K, Becker still enjoyed the experience of getting to know the team’s athletes.
“My time at H-K was all sweet. I enjoyed working with that program from day one, and I know they are going to do great things in the future,” said Becker, who was head coach of the Coginchaug co-op team prior to joining H-K. “I also think everything works out as it’s meant to be. H-K will always have a really dear place in my heart. The staff there are amazing, and it was so good for me to be there this fall.”
Now that he’s landed his dream job at his alma mater, Becker plans on staying at Hand for as long as he possibly can. Becker said the transition is already going smoothly and that he won’t feel any pressure heading into the fall season.
“It feels so right. I feel no pressure. This is something that I’ve wanted for so long,” Becker said. “God willing, I’d love to serve this team for the next 20 years.”
In addition to coaching football, Becker works as a health and nutrition teacher at Daniel Hand High School. Consequently, he’s already had an opportunity to create relationships with several of the Tigers’ players.
“I’m in the building every day, and I’ve been able to meet a bunch of kids. I’ve been in the weight room with them, and it’s been great to see how athletic a lot of these kids are,” said Becker, who lives in Madison. “Coaching is about relationships and trust. I love this. Their success is our success. I want them to be the best players that they can be, and my job is to uphold the Hand culture of high performance.”
The culture of the Hand football has yielded 13 state championships in the team’s 50-year history. With Becker taking the helm of one of the most successful programs in Connecticut, it should come as no surprise that he has huge expectations for what the Tigers can accomplish on the gridiron this fall.
“My initial take on this program is that we have a lot of talent and we look very fast and athletic,” said Becker. “If we can run, we can win. We are going to work on becoming the fastest, strongest football team in the state.”
Coach Becker feels eager to start working with Hand’s athletes, noting quarterback Patch Flanagan, wide receiver/defensive back Seth Sweitzer, and running back Ethan O’Brien—who will all be seniors next year—as three of the team’s top players. Becker will also get to work with his mentor Filippone, who will serve as offensive line coach for the Tigers after stepping down from his second stint as Hand’s head coach in January. Becker’s coaching staff also includes offensive coordinator Mike Ferraiolo, defensive coordinator Mike Davis, and defensive coordinator John Sagnella.
“These are three guys that I’ve already had the chance to watch a little bit. I believe Seth will be one of the best players in Connecticut. Patch and Ethan are both rising seniors that are going to be major contributors to our offense,” Becker said. “This is a really exciting team. Seeing them succeed is what this is all about. This is more than just a job to me. It’s a lifestyle.”