Joly’s ‘Game Plan’ Should Be A Lesson To Us All

Richie Joly poses for a photo with his daughter, Peyton, during a performance of The Nutcracker. Submitted photo

Today is Christmas, a time for family, food and, if you’ve been on your best behavior for the last 365 days, an opportunity to open a couple of presents under the tree.

In the case of Richie Joly, a Jamestown High School special education teacher and assistant varsity football coach? Well, his gift came a week early, except he was the one doing the giving, and by conservative estimates, more than 1,500 people in the greater Jamestown area were the recipients.

One of them was Joly’s 9-year-old daughter, Peyton.

“Richie has a huge heart,” said Red Raiders’ head coach Tom Langworthy, “and he’d do anything for anybody. Family is so important to him. He takes such pride in being a dad.”

Even if it means, as Joly put it, learning “to be comfortable when you’re uncomfortable.”

In this Aug. 14, 2017 file photo, Jamestown High School assistant varsity football coach Richie Joly makes a point during practice. P-J photo by Scott Kindberg

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On any given Friday night in the fall, Joly can be found on the sidelines of the Jamestown Red Raiders. Having just completed his 11th season, the Bennington, Vermont native — along with Langworthy and fellow assistants Dave Munella, Ryan Calkins, Mike Baker, John O’Brien and Arrick Davis — have seen the program scale the highest of heights, capped by a New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA championship in 2014. That title came exactly 20 years after Joly, then an all-state defensive back, won a state crown as a member of the undefeated Mount Anthony Union High School football team.

But when Joly and his wife, Sara, decided last spring to renovate part of the basement of their home on Jamestown’s west side, the blueprints weren’t for a man cave or a football shrine. Rather, the space, measuring about 12 feet by 10 feet, was for Peyton, a fourth-grader at Fletcher Elementary School.

“We built a dance studio,” Joly said. “That’s her space. … We started it in May (for her birthday). The only thing we have to do is get mirrors connected to the wall.”

Once that happens, Joly should like the reflection staring back at him, especially after the performance he put on during the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker at the Reg Lenna Civic Center Dec. 15-16.

In case you’re wondering, football coaches can dance.

“We would definitely ask him back next year,” said Elizabeth Bush, the CRYB executive director. “(He has a) great work ethic, (he’s) dependable and friendly.”

Most importantly, Joly took the stage because, “bottom line, it came down to my daughter asking, ‘Will you do this?'”

So with the blessing of Monika Alch, CRYB’s artistic director, and a schedule that allowed him to work around his in-season football responsibilities, Joly agreed to play the role of the party host in The Nutcracker’s first act.

“I remembered that he and his wife had taken a salsa class at CRYB, so I knew he did not have two left feet, which is a good thing, but he exceeded our expectations,” Bush said. “He threw himself into the role and had a great rapport with everyone.

“We normally ask community members to portray the adults (and) we do occasionally have parents of children in the scene. As a matter of fact, the person who played the party host of the past several years is Dr. (Peter) Walter (of Bemus Point), whose daughters dance at CRYB. We found out this fall that he would not be doing it and learned that Richie would be willing to step in.”

And step out, too.

“I had to learn the choreographed dance and where I had to be,” he said. “There were times my stage wife and I had to come out with my ‘children,’ introduce them to the party and, at one point, I had to walk to the end of the stage and let everybody know the dancing was starting. I moved to the side, the children all danced and then the adults came in and our dance matched the children’s dance.”

Calling plays in Jamestown High School’s spread offense is easy by comparison.

“I was learning all sorts of stage terminology (like) stage right, stage left, but I kept using sports terminology (like) halftime as opposed to intermission,” said Joly, whose wife, Sara, was helping the kids offstage. “It was a great learning experience and they were very patient with me. … I can dance, but not the choreography that was going on. They kind of slowed it down, so I could catch on and my daughter would watch the whole time and smile.”

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The scouting reports are in and Joly earned high grades for his stage presence, according to his football boss.

“He’s so comfortable in his own skin. That’s really it,” Langworthy said. “Of all of the coaches, he’s the one to do it. This was kind of right up his alley. He took some ribbing, but he laughed it off. It was all in good fun.”

Most importantly, it was all about Joly’s family, which also includes 12-year-old Cole.

“I would like everyone to know I’m modeling what parents should be doing for their children and that it’s OK to come out of your comfort zone,” he said. “When your 9-year-old daughter looks you in the eye and asks, ‘Will you please do this?,’ it’s something you should do.”

That’s a game plan that will work every time.