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Mount Abe picks Lee Hodsden to lead football team

BRISTOL — Lee Hodsden, who assisted the Mount Abraham/Vergennes cooperative varsity program for the past five seasons and finished the 2014 season as its interim head coach, last week was named as the team’s new head coach.
Mount Abraham Co-Athletic Director Jeff Stetson said there were several candidates for the position most recently held by Ernie Senecal, who resigned during the season this past fall, but that a search committee decided Hodsden was the person for the job.
“The kids in the program really enjoy him,” Stetson said. “He just seems to be a really good fit for the program.”
As well as assisting the varsity program, Hodsden — a former standout running back for Bellows Falls and then American International College — led the Eagle JV team for the past five years and has extensive experience as a youth coach in other sports, Stetson noted. 
“He has a very good background in football and in coaching multiple youth sports,” he said.
Hodsden, who recently retired from the Vermont State Police, had said last fall he wanted to step away after his son, Jeb, now a Vergennes Union High School senior who plays on the Eagle team, graduated. But Stetson said Hodsden told the committee he had a change of heart.
“He has assured us that it is a commitment for the foreseeable future,” Stetson said.
Hodsden told the Independent that he decided he was not ready to walk away from coaching and from football.
“I realized that I do enjoy doing it. I enjoy the planning aspect of it, and I just enjoy being around the kids,” he said.  
Hodsden said the fact he is no longer working fulltime helped sway him toward applying to lead a program that is making the move up from Division III, where it has made the playoffs for four years in a row, to the tougher Division II level.
“It’s a heck of a challenge, and I’m looking for a challenge, working part-time,” he said. “Division II’s a huge challenge, but I think we can be competitive, and I just want to teach these kids football and some good life skills.”
Hodsden said he sees teaching those life skills as a major part of his new job.
“Our goals are just to teach the kids the game of football the way it’s supposed to be taught, and hopefully they learn to be competitive,” he said. “At the varsity level we all like to win, but that’s not our main goal. You’re supposed to have fun, enjoy the game of football, and hopefully leave the game of football having learned some life skills, hard work, determination, toughness. Of course, discipline is huge with me, so that’s what it’s going to be all about.”
And he wants athletes to enjoy their Mount Abe football careers — looking back, he said he had the most fun playing football during high school.
“I can tell these kids it’s like a train ride, enjoy it while it’s happening, because it’s over really soon,” he said.
Hodsden has firmed up much of his staff already. Mount Abe physical education teacher Mike Crane and former Mount Abe standout Eric Hartman will return, and former Mount Abe teacher and program assistant Gary Russell will rejoin the program.
They will look to emphasize a straightforward playing style.
“We’ll be running the ball. I can guarantee you that,” Hodsden said. “And hopefully on defense we’ll be able to contain.”
Still on Hodsden’s to-do list is a major recruiting effort — at both Mount Abe in Bristol and at Vergennes Union in Vergennes.
“I’ll try to get more kids involved,” he said. “There are so many great athletes in both schools.”
He will also seek more parental and community support for the program. He wants to meet with VUHS boosters to talk about buying a van that could be shared by and thus reduce costs for the wrestling program and rowing club as well as football program. That van could be used to bring VUHS players to daily practices at Mount Abe, he said.
Hodsden said he is enthusiastic about meeting those goals, holding some spring practices, and then playing games in the fall.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said. “I never thought I would enjoy the coaching as much as I enjoyed playing it. It’s great.”
Stetson said Hodsden becomes just the third varsity-level football coach at Mount Abe, following Bill Leggett and Senecal. He said he is optimistic about Hodsden’s tenure.
“I’m hoping that a new coaching staff and renewed enthusiasm will create a bit of a buzz and get more kids from both schools involved,” Stetson said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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