Sports Person of the Week
Becker Takes the Reins with H-K Football
Former Hand football player Erik Becker was recently named the new head coach of the Haddam-Killingworth football squad. Erik lives in Madison and teaches health and wellness in Westbrook. (Photo courtesy of Chet Bialicki )
There’s a new coach in town for the Haddam-Killingworth football program. After spending the last six seasons at the helm, Mike Baklik stepped down as the Cougars’ coach, opening the door for Erik Becker to take on that role. A seasoned veteran who had recently coached the Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton/Hale-Ray co-op squad, Erik becomes just the third head coach in H-K football history.
Erik, 42, went to school at the University of Massachusetts, where he majored in education, psychology, and ecology. Erik also played football at Hand for renowned coach Steve Filippone, and he’s had a passion for the sport ever since.
“My dad died when I was a senior in high school. I had such a positive experience playing football for Steve, and my desire for the game and desire to impact kids positively stems directly from my father and Steve,” says Erik, a Madison resident who works as a teacher in Westbrook. “Those two have singlehandedly had the biggest impact on my life journey thus far.”
After graduating from UMass, Erik wanted to get back into the program that gave him so much when he was in high school. Erik contacted Filippone and was named an assistant coach for the Tigers in 2001. Erik spent three years as one of Hand’s varsity assistants, then took over as head coach of the freshman football squad.
“That was my first real opportunity to coach my own team,” Erik says. “Our teams were always between 40 to 60 kids and, in my time as coach of the freshman team, I developed a character program, which I made the focal point of our team. Football is more than just a sport. I wanted to shape these kids into great, successful young men.”
Erik led the Tigers’ freshmen to 43 wins in his five seasons as head coach. He became offensive coordinator of the varsity squad in 2010, remaining in that position through the 2015 campaign. Hand won 56 games during that span, including two Class L state championships, as its offense averaged more than 30 points per game. Under Erik’s watch, the Tigers produced four All-State quarterbacks and six All-State wide receivers.
“All in all, I coached at Hand for almost 15 years, and it was some of the most enjoyable experiences of my coaching career,” Erik says. “After that, my good friend LJ Spinnato reached out to me and asked me to become the quarterback coach at Choate Rosemary Hall. I did that for a season, and our team went 9-0, winning the [New England Preparatory School Athletic Council] Class A championship.”
In 2017, Erik became head coach of a Coginchaug team that was coming off a 1-9 campaign and had gone through five coaches in four years. Erik turned the program around by guiding the Blue Devils to a record of 18-12 in his three seasons, including a division title with a record of 7-3 last fall.
“My time at Coginchaug was three of the best years of my coaching career. I felt like we really built a foundation there, and I know those kids are going to do great things next season,” says Erik. “I’m proud of all the hard work we collectively put in, and I will miss it there, but I’m looking forward to this new challenge at Haddam-Killingworth.”
Erik is planning on bringing a high-tempo, no-huddle style of offense to the Cougars in an effort to wear out opposing defenses. Although H-K only went 2-8 last year, Erik has big expectations for his debut campaign.
“I always go into every game expecting to be successful. If you do the little things right, the score will take care of itself,” Erik says. “We need to be fundamentally sound and play as hard and fast as possible.”
Erik’s mentor, Coach Filippone, feels confident that the Cougars have found the right person to lead their program going forward.
“I’ve worked with Erik for a long time. He’s a great coach, and he’s great with the kids,” says Filippone. “I only see that team getting better and better the longer he is there.”
Aside from football, Erik also teaches health and wellness at both Westbrook Middle School and Westbrook High School. Erik lives in Madison with his wife Keri and their five year-old daughter Brighton, who he says are the two rocks in his life.
“I’m really proud to be a teacher for those schools. I’m really passionate about health and wellness and leading kids in a better direction,” Erik says. “Being able to teach kids of all different ages is great, and I feel like I’m learning a lot from raising my daughter as well.”