Football 101 — BA football coach Matt Burgess taking football to the Far East



MATT BURGESS, former Gardiner Head Football Coach and current Bridgton Academy coach/faculty member, is heading to China to teach football to Chinese players and coaches.

MATT BURGESS, former Gardiner Head Football Coach and current Bridgton Academy coach/faculty member, is heading to China to teach football to Chinese players and coaches.

Matt Burgess has had a long career of coaching football in Maine — from a decade-long stint at Bridgton Academy (where he is a Class of 1988 graduate) under longtime Head Coach Rick Marcella, to a four-year tenure as Head Football Coach at Gardiner High, and now back to Bridgton Academy under Head Coach Juwan Jackson.

It’s no secret that Burgess is well-known throughout Maine football circles. But for two weeks, Burgess will be undertaking an experience that very few coaches — not just in Maine but the entire United States — can say they share: coaching in China.

Burgess will be working with a group of Chinese football coaches for two weeks beginning on May 6 as one of USA Football’s Heads-Up Master trainers, bringing football to Asia with a decided bent on technique and safety. It’s a country of 1.35 billion people, and with American football in its infancy there, USA Football is eager to teach the basics early on, to help them build a foundation on which to build a tradition.

“Heads-up football is a safety initiative covering proper tackling and blocking technique, equipment fitting, heat and hydration safety, sudden cardiac arrest awareness and signs and symptoms of concussion,” says Burgess. “Basically, we’re going over there to educate them on techniques that are the most current and most technically sound so that they can develop a successful brand of football in China.”

It’s an experience that will take Burgess away from his current role as Assistant Football Coach at Bridgton Academy as summer recruiting heats up, but Head Coach Juwan Jackson is supportive of a member of his staff flying halfway across the world.

“Absolutely, I am very excited to have Coach Matt Burgess represent our institution and football program in China. This will be a great opportunity to make lifelong connections with athletes that want to showcase their talents to U.S. Colleges and Leagues, regardless of sport,” Coach Jackson said. “As a school, we could not have chosen a better representative. It’s rare to find a person who knows Bridgton Academy as well as Coach does.”

In fact, Burgess has previous experience coaching football players and teams from the Far East. In the early 2000s, Burgess was a coach at Grady Vigneau’s Vermont All Star Football Camps, which for over a decade welcomed the football team from Miso Free Academy in Osaka, Japan to its summer camp. Coincidentally (or perhaps not so coincidentally), Vigneau is now the Headmaster of Bridgton Academy.

“Matt just proved to be a guy for whom the language of football superceded any other cultural or linguistic barriers. The kids just connected to him,” Vigneau said. “I expect that Matt goes to China, carries the message America’s Game to the Chinese kids, and is really an envoy of goodwill of joy and enthusiasm. We’re so proud to have one of our own carry the banner of American Football to the Far East.”

Burgess is itching to get on the plane to start his journey.

“I am honored and excited to teach American Football to enthusiastic coaches in China. Honestly, in my wildest dreams I never dreamed that I would coach in China. I have to thank all of the coaches in my past from my Dad, to John Wolfgram to Mike DeLong and Rick Marcella. Bridgton Academy is very supportive of my trip. I appreciate their flexibility and support,” Burgess said. “My wife Diane deserves a ton of credit for her constant support of my coaching. I often think she likes football more than I do, and I love it. It is also coincidental that two boys who grew up on the same dirt road in Windsor, Maine (Tom Maines and I) have had the chance to coach in China. I know Tom Maines has been overseas a number of times and I’m looking forward to my first trip and hope it will be the first of many.”

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