East’s Coach Brigandi proved the value of sports extends beyond the playing fields

East’s Coach Brigandi proved the value of sports extends beyond the playing fields

DUE TO SERVER CHANGE AT THE D & C WHERE THE ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED, MOST PICS WERE LOST.  SEE East’s Coach Brigandi proved the value of sports extends beyond the playing fields


Paul Brigandi

• April 25, 2014

After over three decades of coaching, including the last 13 years as East’s head football coach, Paul Brigandi’s players have amassed plenty of trophies, awards and accolades. Since 2001, Brigandi has coached 33 Eddie Meath all-star game participants, 15 All Greater Rochester players, 9 All State players, and won 8 City Catholic – RCAC titles and 2 Section V titles (2004 and 2005).

But ask Coach Brigandi of what he is most proud, and he’ll rattle off the numbers: 37 of his players went on to play football at 4 year colleges, 9 with full scholarships at Division I schools, 10 with full or partial scholarships at Division II schools, 18 at Division III schools, and at least 7 more had notable careers at junior colleges.

Throughout his career, Brigandi unwaveringly preached that academics come first. No matter your talent, if you slacked in the classroom or spent time in ISS, you sat on the sidelines. When it came to football and education, he was clear. Your chances of playing professional football were very remote at best; your chances of success with a college degree—maybe even following in his footsteps as a teacher and coach—were high.  The results speak for themselves.

We often hear that sport provides students with the motivation, structure and self-discipline that often translates into classroom success. While this seems to make sense, how true is it – not just at East but throughout the District?

To answer this, I spoke with Dr. Thomas Stewart, the Director of Athletics and Physical Education at Rush Henrietta High School, who did his doctoral research at Columbia University on the linkage between sports participation and academic achievement in the Rochester area.

Stewart says that his research on Rush-Henrietta athletes has shown that RH student athletes have a higher grade point average (GPA) than non-student athletes. The data includes the last 5 years, with close to 3,000 students per year involved, grades 7-12.

According to Stewart:

The one sport athlete’s GPA is about 5 points higher than the non-athlete. We have also found that the more sports our student participate in, the higher the GPA. The 2 sport athlete has a  higher GPA than both the 1 sport and non-athlete, and the 3 sport athlete has the highest GPA of all. This is consistent with a report recently published by The Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention, which states that “Youth athletes have 23% higher GPAs, and as the number of sports teams an athlete participates in, GPA also increases.

Furthermore, Stewart thinks the role played by coaches is fundamental.  As he states:

Recent research suggests that coaches who also teach and strongly advocate for their players to succeed in the classroom, as well as teachers who support after school sports are the most effective in promoting academic achievement.  I believe that coaches can make a positive impact on student athletes’ lives—and in Brigandi’s case—a very big impact.

While Stewart’s research focuses on Monroe County suburbs, he is pretty sure the positive effect holds for city schools.  In the past, some have feared that African American boys can become too preoccupied with sports to the detriment of their school work.  Recent studies, however, have found these fears to be largely misplaced:

Recently, positive results have come from a program in the Chicago City Schools called Becoming A Man-Sports Edition (BAM-Sports Edition). At-risk students (grades 7-10) involved in an after school sports program have shown increased engagement in school.  The researchers are anticipating a potential increase in graduation rates for those students involved in the program by as much as 23 percent.

I am confident that much of the findings from many of the recent “academics/athletics” studies could show similar results for all schools in the greater Rochester area.  Student athletes in the Rochester City School District are no different than student athletes from the suburbs.  They all can succeed in the classroom, and can actually have an advantage being involved in school sports.  Having the right coaches as mentors is essential.

For young men at East who graduated at a far higher rate than the school average, Brigandi was that right coach.

To learn more about Brigandi’s impact, I turned to one of his former players, Robert Snyder. See  “Teaching with poverty in mind:” One teacher’s perspective

Paul Brigandi is more than a physical education teacher and coach at East High School. To the young men he has coached, Brigandi is a mentor and father figure. He encourages growth in his students and players by pushing them to be their best in classroom and on the field. His dedication to the athletic programs at East goes far beyond the typical school schedule. Brigandi works late into the nights and all day on Saturday because he believes in the East High Community and the young men that call him “Coach”.

I can say these kind words because I have known Paul Brigandi for over ten year. I first met him over the summer prior to my freshman year of high school. I went to East to find-out information on how I can play football and to participate in an off-season workout. That day Brigandi pushed me harder in the weight room than I had ever been pushed. Leaving school I was worried about the amount of work high school football would take and the impact it would have on my grades. Over the next four years I would work with Brigandi as both my football and wrestling coach.  Brigandi’s constant recognition of my grades encouraged me to work hard both in the classroom and on the field. It is that encouragement that pushed me to graduate in the top-ten of my senior class before attending the University of Rochester where I continued to play football and accelerate in the classroom.

A personal story that I will always define Brigandi’s love for his athletes came at a time of loss for me. In February of 2006 my grandfather had fallen ill from cancer. The night the Section V wrestling tournament my mother was told that the cancer was terminal. The news was hard on my parents and they were not sure how to tell me, so they turned to Coach Brigandi. Coach Brigandi sat me down in his office just minutes before boarding a bus to the wrestling tournament and gave me a life lesson in how teachers and coaches care for their students. Brigandi broke the news to me, consoled me, and then cared for me. He, along with other members of the East High football staff attended my grandfather’s funeral a month later. The East High football which is led by Coach Brigandi is more than another coaching staff, but a family to each other and their students.

Brigandi’s presence on the sideline will dearly missed, but his legacy at East High School will go on for a long time.

This year the RCSD budget includes increased funding for sports. To me, that is money well spent. Just look at the numbers.

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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