Matt Lisowski is the 2009 Pop Warner Palomar Conference Midget Coach of the Year. There are 20 midget teams in the Palomar Conference.
Lisowski’s Bulldawgs went 7-5 after going 2-10 in 2008 and earned a bid to the Sun Bowl, where they beat the Chino Colts 26-12.
But winning and records are not what Lisowski is about or what earned him the Coach of the Year honor.
Matt Lisowski was raised, as he puts it, “as an army brat.” He was born in Georgia and moved from fort to fort as a youth. He attended high school at a defense department high school, Heidelberg High School in Germany and played nose guard and offensive guard for the Lions.
Upon graduation he was given an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated from Army in 1991 and took his commission as an ensign in the U.S. Navy as a helicopter pilot.
Lisowski started coaching Pop Warner in Ramona six years ago. He spent four years as an assistant and has been a head coach of the Midget team for two years.
Since his son, Andrew, played for the Bulldogs at RHS, Lisowski decided to run the Bulldogs’ systems on offense and defense.
“I run the same plays and use the same nomenclature as the high school,” he said. “I even use the same practice plans as the frosh team uses. I want my players to learn the high school system so that they will have a head start when they try out for the frosh team.”
Lisowski’s staff included John Rodriguez, Jeremy Drews, Andrew Lisowski and Marshal Thrasher.
“Two of my coaches are players at Ramona High School, so my players learn the same drills that the Bulldogs run,” said Lisowski. “John Rodriguez took our team to the next level. He was the defensive coordinator and he installed a complete defense. It took time for the player to grasp it, but after they caught on nobody scored on us when the game was on the line. We lost some games early in the season when the players were still learning the system. Then we went on a six-game winning streak. John is a very good coach.”
Rodriguez had high praise for Lisowski’s coaching.
“I hate to use a cliché (Rod is an English teacher), but Coach Lisowski not only talks the talk, he walks the walk,” said Rodriguez. “He is constantly telling his players that to advance to the next level they have to work on technique. He explains that what we are doing is what is done at Ramona High School and will help them when they try out for the frosh team.”
Lisowski gives his staff much credit for the team’s improvement and success.
“I use the leadership skills and organizational skills that I learned as a Navy officer and a cadet at West Point as a coach,” he said. “I let my coaches coach. I learn from every coach that I observe or come into contact with. I don’t know it all, so I am constantly trying to learn.
“Our players really bought into the system and our philosophy. We don’t have any 10 play players. We played all 26 players when the game was on the line. We did not have any star running backs. We spread the ball around.
“Nine different players scored touchdowns on our team. Winning was not our primary goal. Our primary goal was to teach the fundamentals of football, and for the players to learn to love the game and have fun.”
Besides the coaching staff, Lisowski got support from Bulldog players.
“In addition to Andrew and Marshal, James Hackett and Colin Houlihan came to practice and talked to our team and showed us some drills,” he said. “I plan to have more guests attend practices next year,”
The Bulldawgs ended the season with 26 players on the roster.
“I would like to have 35 players next season,” said Lisowski. “That is one of my goals.”
This coach let his coaches coach and he lets his players play. His team learned, improved and had fun. That is a winning formula that no doubt helped Lisowski earn Palomar Conference Midget Coach of the Year.