New Hampshire’s Windham High School preparing for opportunity of a lifetime

The smallest Division 1 program in New Hampshire is about to make New England football history.

Windham High School in Windham, New Hampshire has only stood since 2009, but the Jaguars’ football team is set to become the first New England program to play a game internationally.

In August, head coach Jack Byrne – who grew up in Tewksbury – and his squad will travel to Ireland to play in the Global Ireland Football Tournament in Dublin. Windham will play against The Maclay School out of Tallahassee, Florida. The Episcopal School from Dallas, Texas and one of the IMG Academy teams from Florida will also be headed over to play each other. The Irish U-19 team named the Junior Wolfhounds will also be involved.

The teams will also have Irish cultural tours and sports clinics – both football and Irish sporting events – and attend the season opener for Georgia Tech and Florida State in the Are Lingus Classic.

How does the smallest D1 program in New Hampshire have an opportunity that programs like Everett, St. John’s Prep, CM, powerhouses in Connecticut and others in New England have never had? Well, it started as an idea in Brazil and turned into his team heading over to Ireland.

“My former school is Summitt High School (CO). I coached there for two years in my 20’s and I had a player there who graduated and moved down to Brazil,” Byrne explained in a phone interview on Monday. “He ended up playing semi-pro, club American football in Brazil. He and I had a plan where I was going to do to Brazil and do some camps with him and teach kids how to play, then he moved back to the U.S. But, when I started thinking about international football, I knew we had to do something now.

“I looked into Ireland where I have distant family and I had visited a couple years ago when my dad passed away. We spread his ashes and that kind of stuff…I called around and there was an event in Ireland. They’ve done it maybe five times total, so we jumped in.”

With the school only existing for 15 years, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if some of the administration may be apprehensive about taking on such a tall task – especially with fundraising and other things needed to make it happen – but, the team has gotten support right from the jump. It could serve as a huge boost to numbers when it comes to players coming out to play for Windham down the road.

“Everyone from administration, to the school board. I think they all see it as an educational opportunity,” he said. “I think if you see how our program works through the school day, we care very much about our football team and winning and all that stuff, but we care more about the academics and giving kids an overall experience of going after some big things. When we pitched it and talked about it, they saw what we’re really trying to do.

“We’re trying to do something no one has ever done from this region. We’re trying to give these kids an experience they can hold onto for the rest of their lives, makes friends they never would have otherwise from other countries and other states. They jumped on board. Windham has always done a good job with extracurriculars…I think it’s almost easier when you see a band go to Italy or some sort of art festival in another country, but to play a game in another country, and for them to see this as an art or passion for our kids was really cool.”

There are still plenty of ways people can help contribute to the journey for Windham. The team was stunned to hear the news when Byrne told them and are thrilled to be representing the region is this unique setting.

“I think they were just amazed. They were blown away,” said Byrne. “I don’t know if it hit them all at the same time, what it’s actually going to be. They’re excited and probably confused at first in terms of how this works. They didn’t know those opportunities were out there. Once they knew and I asked for their opinion, they were all on deck and ready to go.

“They’ve jumped on the fundraising bandwagon as soon as they could and they’re working hard on and off the field to represent New England the right way on an international stage.”

Fundraising Links
: Corporate, Friends/Family/Individual support

50/50 Raffle: