Secrets to Success: EHS Football Coach Ryan Conway ’89
“I’ve had great mentors. Now I’m here to share — and guide these kids.”
The blowout record score only tells part of the tale.
In the 2021 annual Thanksgiving Day game, English High’s ‘Blue and Blue’ football team beat archrival Boston Latin 66-42. It was EHS’s first victory over BLS since 2013 and the highest-scoring contest in the 134-year series. This is the oldest continuous public high school football rivalry in America.
But there’s a lot more to the story. Guiding EHS’s outstanding players was Coach Ryan Conway, class of 1989, now in his sixth EHS football season, who played two seasons while at English, including the historic 100th EHS-BLS game.
In recognition of the outstanding season, Conway was named the 11th New England Patriots High School Coach of the Week of the 2021 season.
A $1,000 award was presented to the team in honor of Conway on behalf of the Patriots Foundation by Patriots, College, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett, the Patriot’s Executive Director of Community Affairs. Tippett said, “Coach Conway had his team ready to go from the opening kickoff. English’s victory was one of the most significant in program history dating back to 1887.”
Conway, who also serves as an EHS Dean of Academies and Athletic Director, recalls arriving for his first day as EHS football coach after coaching as an Assistant Coach for 18 years at East Boston High. “Only three kids showed up and they were wearing mismatched uniforms. We literally had to build from scratch. This year we had a 42-man roster with uniforms and equipment made possible by a generous donation from the Kraft family and the Patriots Foundation and from the EHS Alumni Association.” Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s father, Harry, was an EHS alum (circa Class of 1923).
“Football is tough but rewarding,” smiles Conway. “You have to coach through losses and deal with emotions. It teaches you about your limits – physically, emotionally, spiritually. It’s unlike anything else and takes a special kind of person to play. Not everyone can play football.”
The father of three and stepfather of two, Conway attributes his coaching success to three things. “First, several great mentors including East Boston High Head of School and former head basketball coach Michael Rubin; my EHS football coach John Sousa who was head coach at East Boston High for 16 of my 18 years there; Keith Parker, a former EHS head football coach; and former EHS Head of School Sid Smith; my continuous relationships with Barry ‘Coach Rob’ Robinson, assistant JV basketball coach; and with Keith Parker, long time head coach when I played at EHS. I’m still in regular contact with all of them.” Sousa and Parker are both in the Mass. High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Rubin is in the Mass. Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Communication with his mentors is key: Rubin and Sousa are ongoing sources of support. Conway routinely speaks with Smith. Parker gave his early blessings and encouragement. And EHS colleague Robinson is still a source of guidance.
Conway’s second secret to success: “I think about what I needed as a high school student and football player – what I got and didn’t get — and I use that to help guide the kids.” And third: “I’m in touch with Andre Tippett who offers great advice. His primary guidance is to teach players to focus on consistency and hard work.”
Conway is President of the Mass. High School Football Coaches Association and serves on several committees of the Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association, including the Football, Sportsmanship , and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committees.
Concerned about the health of his players, Conway stresses safety and has invested a good amount of donated funds in uniforms, equipment, and most importantly, he emphasizes, state-of-the-art helmet technology. The EHSA donated 22 helmets.
How does Conway deal with events that are especially frustrating? “First, I tap the voicemail button and listen to an uplifting saved message from Robert Kraft, and second, I watch Pop Warner practices to center myself.”