This is a look behind the scenes as football coaches talk about coaching from atop the press box instead of on the field.

Six games into the 1999 football season, Delsea coach Sal Marchese Jr. knew something had to change.

"We were 1-5," Marchese Jr. said.

One game into the 2009 season, Holy Cross coach Frank Holmes came to the same conclusion.

"We lost, 15-0, and I think we had negative-2 rushing yards," Holmes said.

Both coaches sought to improve their fortunes by changing their perspectives. They started directing their teams from the top of the press box during games.

And they've both been there ever since.

"I don't think I could coach again from the field," Marchese Jr. said. "I can't see anything."

Improved vision as a play caller is the main reason the coaches spent the games at a high perch, talking with their assistants through a headset rather than interacting face-to-face with athletes on the field.

During his 26 seasons at Hammonton, Pete Lancetta coached one game from the top of the press box — when he had the chicken pox.
David Warren/Staff photographer
During his 26 seasons at Hammonton, Pete Lancetta coached one game from the top of the press box — when he had the chicken pox.

Marchese Jr. and Holmes have done it for years. Some coaches have tried it, including St. Augustine's Pete Lancetta, who went up top one time during his long tenure at Hammonton.

"I had the chicken pox," said Lancetta, who didn't want to get too close to his players and coaches.

The Blue Devils won the game, but Lancetta was back on the sideline the next week.

Absegami's Dennis Scuderi Jr. coached from the top of the press box in 2017 but is back on the sideline this season.

"I love it, I can see the field better and it allows me to focus more on play-calling without having to worry about everything else," Scuderi Jr. said. "Negatives — you aren't on the field communicating with the kids and if things are going wrong their leader isn't on the sideline with them."

Shawnee’s Tim Gushue tried coaching from up top during the early 1990s.
Akira Suwa/For the Inquirer
Shawnee’s Tim Gushue tried coaching from up top during the early 1990s.

Shawnee's Tim Gushue tried coaching with a bird's-eye view in the early 1990s.

"We were running the spread offense and since it was new, teams would defend it so many different ways," Gushue said. "We would line up in a formation and I would call the play based on the defensive deployment. Unfortunately, we had a young staff and they said they needed me on the sideline."

Marchese Jr. and Holmes said having veteran assistant coaches enables them to leave the sidelines in capable hands.

"I have Paul Collins, who is one of the greatest basketball coaches in South Jersey history, and Tim Durkin, who is going to be a head football coach," Holmes said. "I know they have control on the sidelines and that allows me to focus on calling the game, seeing the game from up top.

"You can just see things so much better, defensive alignments, fronts, coverages."

Holmes played at Washington Township for legendary coach Tom Brown, who used to call games from the top of the press box during his days with the Minutemen and earlier in his career at Paulsboro.

"We still used to hear Coach Brown from up top, and sometimes you'd see that headset swinging down," Holmes said.

Delsea’s Sal Marchese Jr. has been coaching games from the top of the press box since 1999.
Elizabeth Robertson/Staff photographer
Delsea’s Sal Marchese Jr. has been coaching games from the top of the press box since 1999.

At Delsea, Marchese Jr. has a veteran staff, many of whom have been with the program for 20 or more years.

"That's the big thing for me, having confidence in my staff," Marchese Jr. said. "You have to have sideline management."

Marchese Jr. said another advantage is that his distance from the sideline insulates him from the emotional highs and lows of the action.

"It takes the emotion of it out of the game for me," Marchese Jr. said. "I'm not getting too excited, or yelling at a kid about this or that, or celebrating if things go right.

"Sometimes, you can get so busy with that you don't focus on what you are doing as a play caller. It takes that out of it for me."

One other aspect of coaching up top: The head man has to walk down through the crowd at halftime, and after the game as well.

"Sometimes they give it to me pretty good on the road," Marchese Jr. said. "But I'm used to it."