Sports Person of the Week
Alessi Giving Back to Branford as a Coach
Branford graduate Billy Alessi is giving back to his hometown as an assistant coach for the Hornets’ girls’ soccer and lacrosse teams. (Photo courtesy of Billy Alessi )
Billy Alessi was a four-year member of the boys’ lacrosse team at Branford High School, where he also played three seasons with the boys’ soccer squad. After graduating from Quinnipiac University in 2011, Billy came back to Branford, but this time as a coach.
Billy is now an assistant coach for Branford’s girls’ soccer and lacrosse teams, the latter of which is coached by his sister and fellow Hornets’ alum Jackie Ceccolini.
“It was fun. I’m trying to give back any way possible to the community that brought me up. It was something I was definitely very interested in,” says Billy. “My sister being the head coach at the time and being able to assist her made it a lot more fun to do, as well.”
Billy started playing soccer when he was five and then picked up lacrosse in the 6th grade. Both sports have always been a key piece of the fabric for the Alessi family. As he grew up in Branford, Billy found his passion for athletics on both the lacrosse field and the soccer pitch.
“Everybody has a passion for sports,” Billy says of his family. “Those two sports, I just started playing at such a young age, I got invested in it. They’re both just a lot of fun to play.”
After graduating from Branford in 2007, Billy attended Quinnipiac University and competed for the men’s lacrosse team. In his junior season, Billy scored 13 goals for the Bobcats. Billy feels that playing for Quinnipiac not only gave him perspective on what it takes to be a college athlete, but also taught him life lessons that he’s now imparting to the athletes he coaches in high school.
“It was intense. Playing Division I was a goal of mine entering high school,” Billy says. “It’s more like a job once you get to college. You have to invest a lot of time into the sport and balance school with playing lacrosse, let alone having a social life. It was busy, but it was fun.”
As soon as he graduated from Quinnipiac, Billy returned to Branford in a coaching capacity. He started as an assistant coach with the girls’ lacrosse team in March 2012 and then joined the girls’ soccer program in that same role later that year. The soccer team won the SCC title in Billy’s first year with the team.
The lacrosse squad claimed the Class M state championship in both 2017 and 2018 with Billy on the sidelines. This summer, Billy was the head coach for the Branford Sting girls’ lacrosse team in the Dream League.
Billy has provided plenty of guidance for the Hornets’ athletes by spending the past eight years as a coach in his hometown. He’s also learned a great deal about the coaching game along the way.
“You see a lot of different players throughout these years. You see the ups and downs, you have a lot of positives throughout these years, and you help these kids achieve goals, get to college. Anything they dream of doing as a freshman, you help guide them as much as possible through their high school careers,” says Billy, who lives in Branford. “It’s always nice to help these young people achieve something. Being someone who had just finished that college experience, I lived it, so it made it easier to help them through it.”
One of Billy’s top priorities as a coach is making sure that his players know that sports is about “more than themselves.” He wants them to understand that being part of a team is like having a second family and that it takes a lot of hard work in order to achieve those collective goals.
Billy knows that if athletes stick together and put in the effort, then they are going to succeed.
Billy feels grateful to both his sister, Coach Ceccolini, as well as Coach Kohut for giving him a chance to be a coach on their teams. Kohut, who has known Billy since she was a substitute teacher when he was in 1st grade, says that Billy has “the best head coaching mind of anyone I know.”
“He doesn’t need me to take him step by step. He gets it. He is just a pleasure to work with,” Kohut says of Billy. “His first year, we won the SCC championship. In his second, we went to the Class L state championship finals. I have to give a lot of credit to him. After all these years together, we are basically equal. We try to look at things from a head-coaching standpoint, and I think we have working really well together over the years. He just really is a special coach.”
Billy has spent his entire life surrounded by sports, and it means a lot to him that he’s giving back to Branford as a coach. As he moves forward in his coaching career, Billy wants every player that he works with to appreciate the opportunity they have to compete for the Hornets.
“It’s very special, being able to do anything you can do to help these kids grow. High school is a tough age for of a lot of people,” Billy says. “Going to a school like Branford, you have an opportunity to be an All-State athlete, an All-American, compete for state championships, go to a Division I school. The opportunities are there for these kids. Seeing them put in the hard work and put Branford back on the map in these sports is very reassuring.”