Updated Thu, Nov 21, 2013 5:58 pm
Throughout nine years in Alexander, Sean Arno built a program that shattered all expectations for Spartan football.
“When I showed up, it was just a team, not a program. It was fun to help build a place without a strong football tradition,” Sean Arno said in the wake of retiring at Alexander.
The news came as a surprise earlier this week to the Alexander community. Arno stepped down due largely in part to the loss of his brother’s son. The tragic event helped him realize the importance of his household.
“At this point it’s about being a family,” explained Arno, while also stating that his coaching years have simply run out and he looks forward to continuing to teach at the high school.
When Arno took the position in 2005, he acquired a team with a massive drought. The Spartans were 0-45 in the TVC-Ohio and had struggled throughout the entirety of their team’s history, only managing two winning seasons.
“They were 0-45 in league play. 0-45,” Arno repeated, almost bewildered that his former team could have been in such a predicament.
Originally from the Cleveland area, Arno began as an assistant in Wellston. He heard the community of Alexander High School is home to “good” people and decided he could build a program using his strength-oriented philosophy.
“Nobody will ever understand how hard it is to change the mentality of a player unless they are a head coach,” Arno stated of his first years instilling the weight room grind. “It’s really not about athleticism, it’s about the mentality.”
After getting into the mindset of his players the team finally ended their TVC-Ohio losing streak and defeated Belpre in 2006. Arno said the win was one of his fondest memories while coaching.
The Spartans earned their first winning season and playoff birth under Arno in 2009. The year also saw exciting wins over Trimble and Nelsonville-York. Alexander’s impressive run inspired the entire surrounding area.
“For the community these wins were seemingly unattainable,” Arno said. “It was almost like a dream to them. For me an opponent is an opponent that can be beaten.”
The 2010 season proved to be another success as the Spartans took down Athens in an 8-2 season. Arno said his assistant coaches, community, and especially players were the main reasons for defeating teams they historically could not in the past.
“I just wanted my guys to matchup and say, ‘He can’t handle me,’ in these big games,” Arno said.
Originally Arno had desires to become a basketball coach. This notion changed, however, when he met his mentor Dick Kerschbaum who helped him realize the inclusiveness of football. Arno coached under Kerschbaum, now an athletic director, at Elyria High School, west of Cleveland.
“Football reaches out to all body types,” Arno explained. “You can be fast, fat, skinny, slow and there is a spot for you. Dick really inspired me to work seven days a week. He was a father figure.”