New head football coach James Robertson has led the Skylanders to a 5-1 record so far this season.
He was promoted to that job at Sussex County Community College (SCCC) during the off-season after serving as defensive coordinator last year.
The Sussex County native succeeds Todd Poltersdorf, who moved up to athletic director.
“I was thankful for him giving me the opportunity to take the program over. It has been a blessing,” Robertson said.
The Skylanders won their first three games, then lost to Lackawanna, 59-24, on Sept. 30. They defeated Hocking, 38-26, on Oct. 7 and Hudson Valley Community College, 44-7, on Sunday, Oct. 15.
Three years after it was established, the program has yet to have a winning season.
The Skylanders are the only Division I JUCO (junior college) football program in New Jersey.
Robertson’s main challenge is recruiting. The team only has a few players from Sussex County.
The Skylanders also do not have a field that they call home. For the past few years, they have been using local high schools to play their “home” games.
Lenape Valley Regional High School has been great to the team, Robertson said. The Skylanders practice on its fields and have played home games there this season.
The team members pride themselves on leaving a place better than they found it, the coach said.
Since taking over as head coach, Robertson has been forming a new culture for the program.
From bringing in new coaches to new recruiting tactics, the players are buying into it, he said.
“This (is a) program where guys can come in and work hard and succeed,” he said. “This is a culture-driven program .... . The upperclassmen have done a phenomenal job guiding the freshmen and transfers and showing them what this program is all about.”
He would like to see a JUCO conference established, more coaches on staff to explore the sea of talent that New Jersey has to offer, weight room and meeting rooms for the team to use and a permanent home field.
Switch to nursing
Robertson graduated from High Point Regional High School, then took a gap year at SCCC to improve his grades. He was recruited to play outside linebacker and strong safety at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md.
After graduating in 2008 with an exercise science degree, he worked as a personal trainer for a year, then decided to switch career paths. He went back to SCCC and enrolled into the nursing program.
Nurses work long shifts that don’t leave for extracurricular activities.
Coaching is one of Robertson’s passions, but he wasn’t able to do it until five years ago, when he went into management.
His first year as a coach was at Blair Academy in Blairstown as a volunteer. He worked with the wide receivers and defensive backs and also was the special teams coordinator.
In his second year of coaching, he moved to Hanover Park High School, which was closer to his home. Again, he was given the opportunity to coach the wide receivers and defensive backs.
Robertson gained great experience in his first two years of coaching, he said. He saw that Fairleigh Dickinson University was looking for volunteer coaches for spring ball and joined up. He was offered a paid position for the fall and he coached safeties and helped with special teams.
Last year, he received a call from Head Coach Poltersdorf at SCCC to join the team as the defensive coordinator. The team had an amazing defensive year last season.
“My overall goal in all of this is to one day leave nursing and go into coaching full time,” he said.
This (is a) program where guys can come in and work hard and succeed.”- James Robertson, head football coach, Sussex County Community College