Discipline, teamwork equals success for Bow Coach Cohen
The first thing Paul Cohen wants you to know is that he’s not thrilled to be the subject of a story. The Bow High football coach would prefer the focus to be on his players, the entire coaching staff, strategy, or anything else related to today’s Division III championship game between No. 1 Bow and No. 2 Stevens.
That may also be the most important thing to know about Cohen.
“Paul is a real team player,” Bow Athletic Director Jim Kaufman said. “He sees the whole picture and he sees it with clarity, and that is a really special quality in a coach.”
Cohen, 49, has been the Falcons head coach since he arrived at the school in 2001, and his teams have a combined 61-61 record. He guided Bow to the 2004 D-V title, the only football championship in school history. He sees some similarities in terms of character and cohesion between that ’04 team and the current version, which at 9-1 has the most wins for any Bow team (the program started in 1997). But Cohen continues to draw lessons from his entire 28-year coaching career, which is one of the reasons why he’d prefer not to be in any kind of spotlight.
“I have never forgotten the seasons gone by throughout my career when my team did not do well. They serve as both a catalyst and reminder that success in sports, as in life, depends upon a multitude of factors, and one should never lose sight of that fact,” said Cohen, who also teaches math at Bow High. “Every instructor, coach and teacher that has shaped the way I perform as a coach possessed that character attribute.”
Few sports, if any, have a greater multitude of factors than football. Successful teams deal with all of those moving parts through careful delegation, especially among the coaching staff, and that’s certainly the case with the Falcons.
“It’s been great working with Paul,” said Bob Polish, who has been the team’s offensive coordinator since 2009. “He knows what we know and he lets us, as assistants, do what we need to do. It works really well as a staff like that because we all have our areas of strength, so the whole marriage works, so to speak.”
Cohen grew up in Philadelphia and played football at Lower Merion High School and for two years at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pa. One of his chief coaching influences has been Rogers Frassenei, whom Cohen played under and then worked with in his first foray into the coaching world in the fall of 1986. Cohen then coached and taught at private schools in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and spent 10 years as head football coach, head wrestling coach and teacher at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden before coming to Bow.
All those years in classrooms, fields and gyms molded Cohen into the coach he is today, but he also draws from his four-year experience in the United States Marine Corps.
“High school football players are not Marine recruits, obviously, so it’s a little bit different in that regard,” Cohen said. “But clearly the notion of command presence and leading by example and staying in condition to be a role model for the kids, all that applies.”
Cohen keeps his hair cropped close, like a Marine, and he clearly keeps in shape. He has an expansive vocabulary, a precise manner of speech and a straightforward message that all command attention. His love for football and his players is obvious when he talks about either, and he clearly wants to win, but Cohen is also focused on “turning adolescents into young men.” And, according to Kaufman, “he knows what’s right and he teaches the correct values.”
“He’s a real role model and we can all look up to him,” said junior Matt Ehrenberg, who became the first 1,000-yard rusher in Bow history this fall. “Everything he does is really for the good of the team. He’s a great coach to play for, same with all the coaches, I wouldn’t want any other staff.”
While Cohen does strive to be a role model, he also wants you to know that the real teacher is the game itself.
“Football does something that no other sport does,” he said. “It forces the kids to work as a group and put off instant gratification for a longer-term award or accolade, in our case, hopefully a state championship.”
(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)