The South Carolina club football team is coming into the 2022-2023 season led by students on the field and the sideline.
“I just wanted to help the guys out,” club President and offensive line/run game coordinator coach Nate Milewski said. “I’ve had more experience than a good bit of our guys. A good amount of our guys are first-year players.”
Milewski, alongside three other students, will be the coaches for the club football team this upcoming season. Unlike other clubs, the football team only has student coaches.
“(I'm) trying to share knowledge I’ve learned because I’ve played a little bit of college ball,” Vice President and defensive line/tight end coach Tom Kane said, “I'm just trying to share knowledge and get the team better all around.”
For all of the coaches, this is their first time directing a full-fledged football team. Milewski has experience with lacrosse, youth football and high school football, quarterback coach Hayden Shinn also has experience with high school football while Kane and defensive coordinator Carter Blackstock have no experience at all.
Most of them pulled from what they’ve observed from old coaches as a means of shaping their own coaching style.
“I’ve had a good bit of help from former coaches,” Milewski said, “Definitely some just remembering what my high school coaches did for me. My dad coached me my entire life, so having him help me has been really huge."
Shinn and Kane echoed Milewski’s message, calling on the lessons learned from their respective high school coaches as an inspiration to their own coaching.
Due to a thin roster, Milewski, Shinn and Kane are players in addition to being coaches. That is not the case for Blackstock, though, as he is exclusively a coach for the team.
“This is my first official role as coach, but I’ve been around the game for years,” Blackstock said. “I was always a little too small in high school to play, so I learned the ins and outs of it and learned more about football in and of itself and how it should be played rather than how to play it.”
Blackstock said that his experience as a linebacker last season gave him a lot of on-field experience, particularly on defense. He was a player for the club last year but because of the team’s needs as well as his own personal schedule, he was willing to become a full-time coach this year.
Despite the close age gap between the players and the coaches, the team has remained disciplined.
“I definitely think they respect it and respect me as a coach just because they realize I do have enough experience,” Blackstock said. “I genuinely care about these guys. And I think they know that, and they can see that and I think that means a lot to them.”
Milewski and the others agreed, speaking highly of the team environment despite the coaching staff’s student statuses.
“We’ve set the expectation that 'We’re students, you’re students.' There’s not a big chain of command,” Milewski said. “Be honest with us, and we’ll be honest with you. Treat us respectfully, and we’ll treat you respectfully.”
The willingness the four student coaches have shown to lead the team has given the club a positive outlook for the season.
“I think we've got a lot of new guys out here this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do,” Blackstock said.
The club football team practices Monday and Wednesday from 9-11 p.m. at Bluff Road fields. They will be competing in the National Club Football Association this upcoming season.