THREE FORKS — Rob Labrie likes the challenge of taking football programs and trying to turn them around. He did it at St. Regis, a six-man program in western Montana.
Labrie took over a St. Regis team that had gone winless (0-7) in 2012 to winning its first game in 2013. St. Regis co-oped with Alberton that season and went on to post a 5-2 record and reach the six-man state playoffs.
But Labrie was quick to note that it wasn’t all his doing. He pointed out that it was a mixture of things that turned around the program in 2013.
“It wasn’t me that turned that program around,” he said. “It was a combination of a lot of great guys pouring into the program. We had three seniors that really bought into what we were doing. And we had underclassmen that stepped up.”
Labrie’s players bought into his philosophy by attending football camps between the 2013-2014 seasons, which ultimately helped the team improve.
“They went to some summer camps. They put the work in,” Labrie said. “That’s something St. Regis has never done before. That contributed to them breaking a four-year losing streak and having their first winning season since 2003. So it wasn’t all me.”
Labrie is a graduate of Missoula Big Sky High School where he played football. His first coaching job was at Pacific University in Washington. Then he returned to Missoula where he coached at his alma mater for two years before moving on to St. Regis.
Three Forks’ football program has struggled of late. The Wolves were 0-8 last year and a combined 4-11 over the previous two years.
Labrie replaces Tyler Palmer, who was 16-40 at the helm in seven years. Palmer stepped down following the 2014 campaign and was recently hired as the school’s new head boys basketball coach.
“We liked want what we seen in Rob when we interviewed him,” Three Forks Athletic Director Mike Sauvageau said.
Coming off a winless season in which less than two dozen players came out for the team, Labrie knows he has his work cut for him in 2015.
“The first challenge we have to do in Three Forks is get the participation out. The biggest issue that Three Forks has faced the last several years has been numbers and participation,” he said. “We have to find a way, treat it like a college program, to go out and recruit. We have to start recruiting in the hallways, in the classrooms and call parents and getting to know who’s who.”
Labrie said that he and his coaching staff will make an effort to reach out to the kids and invite them to camps and team events. He hopes to make it educational as well as fun.
“Take the program and make sure that football is a fun sport. It can be something with a lot of fun and a lot of good memories,” Labrie said. “When we start getting that that’s when you will see those participation numbers go up. And that’s when you will have more and more wins under the belt.”
David Lawson will serve as the defensive coordinator and Stan Provenva will be working with the guys in the trenches.
“Both of those guys are a huge asset to the program. The kids love them and they work great with the kids as well,” said Labrie. “We want to build a relationship with the kids so that we are, not only coaching them, but we are mentoring them.”
The coaches have been working with about 15 players thus far. They took them to Dillon for the Montana-Western football camp in June.
“That was a huge experience for the guys.We actually faced some teams that were pretty big,” said Labrie. “Stevensville was there, we had two Idaho teams, one of which had 500 kids in their high school and another one had almost a 1,000. There were some challenges. The kids fought really hard.”
Labrie said that the Montana-Western coaching staff rallied behind the undermanned Three Forks players.
Labrie also has been working with players about three times a week as the 2015 season approaches.
“I’m just looking forward to the opportunity and I’m already thrilled to work with them,” he said.