Coach’s Shark Swim Funds St. Francis Prep Scoreboard

The new scoreboard at Cunningham Park — St. Francis Prep’s home freshman and junior varsity football field —was made possible due to head varsity football coach Rich Carroll’s fundraising efforts last year. (Photo: Jim Mancari)

In August 2022, St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows, head varsity football coach Rich Carroll showed just how dedicated he is to his high school alma mater. 

He literally swam in potentially shark-infested waters! 

Carroll took part in the annual Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim — a 2-mile swim across the San Francisco Bay from the infamous Alcatraz federal prison to the St. Francis Yacht Club. He didn’t encounter any sharks that day, yet the experience became even more memorable for the purpose it served. 

Carroll’s goal with the swim was to raise funds for the purchase of a scoreboard for the Prep’s junior varsity and freshman football field located at the 73rd Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard intersection of Cunningham Park in Queens. 

He initially sought to raise $5,000, but thanks to the tremendous support of the St. Francis Prep football community, he quadrupled his goal in raising $20,000 — the remainder of which will be used to enhance the football experience for the Terriers’ student-athletes. 

On Aug. 26, the Prep unveiled its new scoreboard at the program’s annual preseason kickoff barbeque. Families and alumni were on hand to celebrate the joyous occasion. 

In addition to football, the scoreboard — which is portable and will be operated by a solar battery – will be used for boys’ and girls’ soccer, girls’ lacrosse, baseball, and softball. 

“Since 1982, I’ve been out on that field, and there’s been no score being kept on a board,” said Carroll, who has been coaching football at the Prep for 20 years and took over the varsity program in the fall of 2015 following the passing of the late great Vince O’Connor. “As the head coach of the program, I would be asking parents for the score. This will help everyone keep tabs on what the score is – for all sports.” 

Carroll is a former member of the Prep’s swim team who recently became an avid swimmer once again following total knee replacement surgery. Swimming has been an effective form of physical therapy for the coach, who was extremely grateful for the enormous support from the St. Francis Prep community — especially the Friends of St. Francis Football — in helping him achieve this goal. 

“For me, it’s something I’m very proud of — to be able to do this and give back to the school’s sports program that has done so much for me,” Carroll said. 

In theory, a scoreboard is as simple as it sounds: It’s a board that keeps the score of a game while also displaying a running clock. For student-athletes, coaches, and dedicated fans though, a scoreboard keeps them all engaged in what’s happening on the field of play. 

“The scoreboard will add to the competitive environment when you actually see the score looming — whether it’s on your side or not,” Carroll said. “You’ll see what you’re up against. It becomes more real when the score and the clock are against you.” 

How many times do we hear of coaches pointing to the scoreboard at halftime and a team rallying from a deficit to clutch the sweet taste of victory? Pretty often in the sports world. This will now be a reality at Cunningham Park. 

When he looks at the new scoreboard, Carroll may or may not be taken back to last year when he fearlessly dove into the San Francisco Bay. What he will always remember though when he checks the score is the unwavering support of the St. Francis Prep community in prioritizing its student-athletes. 

“The scoreboard out there will become a symbol to the players and the parents of the support that they’re getting from the alumni, the Friends of St. Francis Prep Football, and all the people who backed me in the swim.” 

While the swim was the symbolic gesture to drum up the excitement, the scoreboard is now the tangible reward in Carroll’s journey to enrich the high school sports experience for the Terriers’ student-athletes.