Belisle earns national award

Belisle earns national award

CUMBERLAND - He has no qualms playing second fiddle to the man he admires most in his life - his father.

But as low key as Dave Belisle has been over the years while sitting on the bench as the assistant boys hockey coach at Mount St. Charles Academy, his efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Last week, Dave Belisle was informed by Rhode Island Interscholastic League Executive Director Tom Mezzanotte that he has been selected as the National Federation of High Schools' Coach of the Year.

It was 35 years ago that he began serving as an assistant coach to his legendary coaching father, Normand "Bill" Belisle, who oversaw an unprecedented national record by winning 26 consecutive state championships. The elder Belisle, 84, still takes an active role in the hockey program at Mount St. Charles and still carries the title of head coach, but it's no secret that the game coaching has been done by his son during the past several years.

"I have absolutely no problem, none, being behind that guy," said Dave Belisle. "The man is a legend and is responsible for so many good things that have happened in my life and in the lives of our whole family."

The award-winner was pleasantly surprised in October when he was informed by Mezzanotte that he had been nominated for the national honor. The selection was announced earlier this month.

"Tom Mezzanotte told me that I deserved the award because of all the time and years that I have put in with my father at Mount," said Belisle. "It's been a labor of love and something that I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy. The best part of this whole thing is that I made my father proud since I'm his comrade, prot?©g?© and his son."

A full-time salesman, Belisle completes his regular work day and then reports to the academy's Brother Adelard Arena, where his father has already begun putting the Mountie skaters through their drills.

"Even at his age, he still has the competitive spirit and drive, and has this certain intensity that's infectious," said Belisle. "Coaching really fills the competitive void for me."

Dave Belisle played hockey at Mount St. Charles Academy and joined his father in the coaching ranks shortly after graduating. He has seen two of his sons, Brendon and Brian, go through the program, with Brian being selected as a two-time all-state performer.

"But before them, I coached by brother Peter at Mount, and today he's a very successful head hockey coach at the University of Massachusetts in Boston," said Belisle. "And I have two more to go, which basically assures me that I will be associated with Mount hockey for at least six more years."

That's because youngest sons James, a Mount freshman, and Johnny, who will be a 7th-grader next year at Mount, are both very proficient hockey players and will don the Mount colors on the ice.

Dave Belisle has been part of 33 state championships, two less than his father, but it isn't only hockey that stimulates him. He loves baseball, and perhaps gives that sport an edge over hockey.

"I love both sports, and maybe because of where and when I grew up in Manville, I absolutely love baseball and especially Little League baseball," said Belisle.

He has coached all of his sons, and Brian's all-star team won a District IV championship, snapping a long streak by Lincoln Little League, and the all-star team that James was on did something that no other Cumberland team has done. They won the New England championship and earned a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

"That is my most cherished coaching memory," said Belisle. "We did not have a regular ace pitcher, but those kids kept grinding and grinding and made themselves good enough to go to Williamsport. That was a great experience."

He may have one more bite at that apple. Last year Belisle was the coach of the Cumberland American 11-year-old team that captured the state championship, with his youngest son a member of the team. He hopes to be named the manager of this year's Majors all-star team and make a run at still another District IV state and possibly New England title.

"It will be the last time that I do it because then it will be time to move up to Babe Ruth League with my boys," said Belisle. "But the kids who were on that team last year are already working out and trying to improve their games, and some of them are developing as pitchers, so who knows what could happen?"

Belisle said the parental and community support that he and his team were shown when they won the New England title was particularly heart-warming.

"People in this community, they rally around their own, and especially when it's kids that are involved. It was just wonderful," he said. "I wouldn't mind going through it one more time."