BILLERICA – Shawsheen Tech Football coach Al Costabile has reached the point in his career where nearly every time he steps on the field he is achieving some kind of career milestone. Whether it is capturing another league title for the Rams, which he has done five times this decade and three of the past four years, or reaching a win milestone like he did two years ago when won his 175th career game, Costabile’s coaching career and accomplishments have reached historical proportions.
It is only fitting therefore, that it was recently announced that Costabile had made a little more coaching history, as he was selected for induction into the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
His coaching resume speaks for itself, with a career record of 187-118 over a 28-year career at Bishop Fenwick and Shawsheen, including a 147-95 mark at Shawsheen over the past 21 seasons.
In his greatest season with Shawsheen, Costabile led the Rams to an 11-1 record and the Division 4 Super Bowl in 2010. This was after leading Fenwick to a pair of Super Bowl appearances, both losses, in 1995 and 1996.
He also led Shawsheen to State Vocational title in 2006 and 2007. His 187 wins rank him 14th among active coaches in the history of Massachusetts.
Costabile, who has always maintained his humble demeanor throughout his career, accepted news of his recent induction in much the same way he has handled every individual accolade that has come his way.
"First of all, I am so honored. It is such a great honor. Honestly, not to be corny or anything, but this is totally a team effort. Nobody does anything like this on their own, and if anybody says the do, then they are lying. I have been very fortunate,” Costabile said.
For all he has accomplished, Costabile is quick to remind people that he is far from alone in achieving his success.
"There is so much that goes into it. The first thing you have to have is a family that will sacrifice for everything that goes into it. The second thing you have to have is players who are willing to buy into what you are doing. You have to have good kids,’ Costabile said. “And you've got to have good, competent, loyal assistants who will embrace their role. Their roles in football are so vital. There are so many components that go into be successful as a coach, and I have been so blessed to have all of those things."
Costabile certainly has been blessed with many great assistant coaches through the years, but as grateful as he has been for them, they are equally appreciative of having worked for the legendary coach.
Shawsheen Tennis coach Jay Tildsley, who captained Costabile’s first ever Rams team in 1998 and went on to serve on his staff for 14 seasons thereafter, while also coaching several other sports at Shawsheen, knows how important Costabile is to the growth of the football program at Shawsheen.
"Coach C came in when I was a senior, and that was 21 years ago. Right away he had that dynamic personality that just drew you to him,” Tildsley said. “He came to us from Fenwick with a great coaching resume, having taken them to two Super Bowls. He came in here and he wanted to put Shawsheen Tech on the map. He didn't care if we were a vocational school, he felt like we could compete with anyone and he made us believe that as well. He brought a great energy to Shawsheen Tech right from the start and he still has it today. He has that dynamic personality that young men want to be around."
First year Shawsheen Boys Basketball coach Joe Gore, a 2008 graduate of Shawsheen where he quarterbacked the Rams, has been a member of Costabile’s football staff for the past nine years and has learned many valuable lessons from his former coach.
"A quarterback and a coach have a special relationship. Coach C was always honest with me, and he always motivated me to be a special player. The opportunities he gave me as a player are something I will always be thankful for. I am so grateful to have played for him,” Gore said. "Being on his staff, and being able to play for him has been great. I have been able to learn so much from him.
“This is my first year as head basketball coach and I have been able to take so much from him and the way he approaches coaching and use it to my advantage. I have been so fortunate to be able to do that. Working under him for nine years I have learned so much about how to coach, regardless of the sport."
Having Gore and Tildsley, as well as so many other former players on his staff has been quite a thrill for Costabile. The same goes for his connection with so many other alumni who continue to support the program years after graduation.
"It means so much to me to have former players and captains for me who are now coaching for me. That is just such a great feeling,” Costabile said. “Not only that, but there are so many alumni who come back all the time, and you see them on the sideline on Friday nights before the games. I can't tell you how much that means to me."
Costabile is also showing no signs of slowing down, having posted a 10-2 record this past season, advancing to the Division 6 North sectional semifinals as well as the state vocational playoffs. It was the third ten win season in the history of the Shawsheen program, joining the 2007 and 2010 squads. Costabile and the Rams have also suffered only three losing seasons since he took over in 1998.
Aa big reason for the Rams sustained success has been his ability to adapt to the many generations of players he has seen come through the doors of both Fenwick and Shawsheen.
That really is a challenge for someone who wants to coach for a lifetime. You deal with different generations, and different mindsets and you really have to adapt to it. You have to learn how to do it and also be willing to do it,” Costabile said. “If you are doing it for the right reasons, the players know it and they will buy in and you are able to achieve something. If they think you are in it for yourself, it will not work. It can't be about you."’
Of course, it has never been just about Costabile, either throughout his coaching career, or in more recent year when he has also been Shawsheen’s Athletic Director. It is instead about the Costabile’s as a whole, as in his entire family, starting with his wife Donna and including his two now adult daughters Liana and Francesca. Liana famously got married the same day that the Rams won the Super Bowl in 2010, with Costabile coaching his team to the championship in the morning and walking his daughter down the aisle in the evening.
“Without a doubt, it all begins there. My daughters don't know anything else,” Costabile said. “I mean, Liana got married the day of our Super Bowl game. And my wife has been so supportive. That is so vital. There has to be understanding in order to do this job, and I just can't thank any of them enough."
Costabile’s career is far from over, but upon his selection to the Hall of Fame, he did take a moment to look back on his career to this point. While it is hard to pinpoint just one or two memories over such a wide ranging career, Costabile instead looked back on his entire career as a whole and what it has meant to him
"I feel like it is more of a collective memory of all of the people you coached, and all of the people you coached with and against,” Costabile said. “Still now, with my coaches we look back and think about kids we coached years ago and we laugh and have great memories. I talk to the guys I coached with at Fenwick 25 years ago and we still have great memories of things we did and the kids we coached.
“The thing that stands out is the kids you coached and the coaches you coached with. You go through so many things together and spend so much time together that you develop great bonds with each other, and that is the thing that still stands out me the most."