Assistant coaches: The unsung heroes

Who’s on first, what’s on second; wait, who’s that?

He’s yelling at the players, but he’s not Coach Hamilton. He’s teaching a swimmer a stroke technique but he’s not Coach Hehn. And she’s motivating the volleyball players, but she’s not Coach Piggot.

They are the assistant coaches, the unsung mentors of sports.  Although they are not in the spotlight for their demanding work, assistant coaches play a vital role in the team’s success, according to junior Taylor-roman Ross, a member of the baseball team.

Alan Stein, a long time high school basketball coach and a writer for USA Basketball, said “great” assistance coaches are open-minded, set a positive example, and can communicate to the team. Stein insisted that these coaches care about and respect their players, but they are not “friends” with them.

Senior Aaron Esmalian described the “ideal” personality for an assistant by quoting John Wooden: “A type of coach who can give corrections without causing resentment.”

Assistant coaches not only encourage these athletes to learn and excel at a certain sport, they also promote the philosophy of the coach.

Rae Basmagian, assistant coach of the girls volleyball team, says she tries to motivate each athlete, while the head coach focuses on the big picture: the games, the playbook, and the scheduling.

Basmagian said after “tough” losses to Cal Lutheran and Oakwood on November 11 and October 29, she tried to remind the players of their “capabilities” and “limits.”

“My assistant coach can really talk to you about what you need to do and provide a pat on the back to help you pick yourself back up if you’re feeling bad about your game performance,” junior Alyssa Furukawa, varsity basketball player said. “Generally, I think assistant coaches provide a certain amount of comfort that coaches sometimes lose in tough situations.”

Junior Noah Drapeu likes having an assistant coach on the tennis team for another reason: they offer a “different perspective” on his skills.  Drapeu noted his serve and volley game has improved after assistant coach Steve Ishoo pulled him aside from team practice for individual training.

While assistant coaches supervise athletes’ physical training, technical skills, and mental development, some assistant coaches are just “fun to be around,” junior Adam Taslizts, captain of the tennis team, said.

Taslitz said he feels comfortable around his assistant coaches and enjoys the positive attitude that they bring to the tennis program.

“The assistant coaches are the voice of positivity and relatable,” sophomore Caroline Bloch, volleyball player said. “They always look to perfecting tricky shots, and help you strengthening technical skills.”

However, assistant coaches face a challenge: time. While assistant coaches are devoted to guiding student athletes, they have other commitments.

“There’s a time commitment involved,” assistant swimming coach and Middle School Dean, Michael Pourciau said. “Being the Middle School dean, a family man, taking care of my dogs, and being assistant coach, it can become difficult to manage my time.”

And even though assistant coaches juggle commitments to work with their team, they lack recognition.

By definition, I am second in charge,” Basmagian said. “ The players want the validity of the head coach, so they usually respond to the head coach.

Basmagian said the hardest part about being an assistant coach is receiving the same respect that is given to a head coach.

But there is a consensus among the coaches: the experience of coaching is worthwhile and exciting.

“Not only do students enjoy the company of the coaches, I love being an assistant coach, Pourcaiu said. “It is a great opportunity to work with someone like Coach Hehn, who has so much experience in the swimming world.”

Whether or not the fans recognize their presence, assistance coaches are an integral part in their team.