Grid Success at Millis Makes Nichols Coach Happy

Ken Hamwey, Staff Sports Writer
Olmsted Big Plus for Division 3 College
Dale Olmsted played a significant role in helping Millis to keep its grid program. Now, he’s working diligently to helping Nichols develop football tradition.
Issue Date: 
March, 2018
Article Body: 

Nichols College football coach Dale Olmsted, who played a key role in elevating Millis High’s grid program, was ecstatic when the Mohawks won their second straight Super Bowl crown last December.
After all, his two sons (Alex and Hayden) played against Hoosac Valley and experienced the excitement of winning a state championship. The two consecutive championships, however, left the coach in a reflective mood as he flashed back to 2009 when the Millis grid squad was faced with the possibility of watching the program dissolve because of low numbers.
“Winning two straight championships is an outstanding accomplishment,’’ the 49-year-old Olmsted said. “And, having two sons on the team was an added plus. I loved every minute of Millis’ success, but I’ll always remember the difficulties we faced in 2009 when we had only 18 varsity players and were about 1½ months from opening the season. We got a co-op plan in place quickly with Hopedale and our numbers reached 27.’’
Olmsted is quick to deflect credit for keeping Millis afloat. He’s acutely aware that saving Millis football was a team effort. “Our athletic director, Chuck Grant, was a key and so were the administrators from both schools,’’ Olmsted said. “And, let’s not forget the late Dennis Breen, who was Hopedale’s principal and later superintendent. He played at Millis and was a driving force to help Hopedale get involved with football.’’
After 5-6 and 3-8 seasons as Millis-Hopedale, the Mohawks blossomed and posted 10-2, 8-4, and 8-3 campaigns, giving Olmsted a 26-9 record during his final three seasons as the Mohawks’ coach. That success didn’t go unnoticed at Nichols, a small business-oriented college in Dudley. The Bison had not experienced a winning season since 2007 when it went 5-4. In 2014, Olmsted was hired with an eye towards invigorating the football program while maintaining the school’s high academic standing.
Nichols enjoyed a 6-4 season in 2016 after going 1-9 in Olmsted’s first two seasons. He was chosen Worcester Area Coach of the Year for 2016. Last year’s 2-8 record was a step back but the energetic coach is laboring on all fronts to get his forces back to playing winning football.
“Our goal for 2018 is to be at least 6-4 again and be competitive in the Commonwealth Coast Conference,’’ he emphasized. “It’s all about having the right pieces to the puzzle. If you have that, then you can be successful. Recruiting is extremely important, and so is having a plan that stresses good standards. For the long term, our objective is to sustain a winning culture.’’
Recruiting has taken Olmsted and some of his staff to Florida, Georgia and Texas, but they’ve also maintained close ties with area players. The Tri Valley League and the Hockomock League are two circuits Olmsted knows well and is eager to tap into that talent pool.
“When I get close to finalizing a roster, the main attributes I look for are players who have character and who fit into what we’re trying to achieve,’’ Olmsted noted. “We also strive to get athletes who are mentally tough, have size, strength and speed, and who have leadership ability.’’
During his early days at Nichols, Olmsted quickly discovered that time spent away from x’s and o’s was a major transition from high school to college coach. “After practice at Millis, the kids went home,’’ he said. “At Nichols, when issues arise that deal with discipline, academics or emotional concerns, it’s the football coach and his staff that address problems. Also, at Millis, I might have had 35 players. Here, it’s 100.’’
Olmsted, who continues to commute from Walpole, rates the 2016 season in Dudley as his most rewarding and memorable. The Bison were 5-4 and set to face M.I.T. in its season finale. A victory would ensure a plus-.500 record.
“We went into double overtime,’’ he recalled. “They’d score, then we’d score. When we got our second TD and trailed by a point in overtime, I decided to go for the two points and end the game. We went with a pass play, similar to how the Patriots use Julian Edelman near the goal line. It clicked and we had our first winning season in 10 years. That team was a close-knit group with great camaraderie.’’
Olmsted employs a balanced offense that focuses on a run-pass option. “How we set up and line up really depends on our talent from year to year,’’ he emphasized.
At Nichols, the instructor-to-student ratio is 20-1 and the enrollment is 1,200, far lower than other schools in the Commonwealth Coast Conference. But, the spanking new weight and training facility, is a plus in recruiting and so is the immaculate grounds that has a football facility that seats about 3.500. Some of the teams in Nichols’ conference are Curry, Salve Regina, Endicott, Western New England and the University of New England.
Before coaching at Millis, Olmsted was an assistant for 13 seasons at four other schools. At Walpole, where he played for the legendary John Lee, he was a dependable aide who was part of three Super Bowl championships. He also coached at Dedham, Braintree and King Philip. When he arrived at Nichols, he compiled a staff with local ties. Millis all-star linemen — Brett Angel and Jimmy Whitlow — became assistant coaches.
Married and the father of three, Olmsted continues to work relentlessly to elevate Nichols football. He wants success but he won’t stray from the school’s high standards.