What's in a High School Coach

Author: Casey Fitzpatrick, Intern


By Casey Fitzpatrick, Fall 2017 Intern


A high school coach not only guides a team but also plays a critical role as a leader, motivator, teacher and serves as an overall role model for their athletes.

“I believe that a coach should be the type of person who can get you to want to better your game and someone who makes you want to be there day in and day out,” said Chris MacArthur, a graduate of Taconic Hills High Schools (NYSPHSAA Section 2) and currently the girls’ volleyball coach at the school.

MacArthur is one of the many young and seasoned high school coaches in New York State who are focused on balancing winning and shaping a student-athlete’s character.

“Being coached as a high school athlete has given me the opportunity to learn various coaching styles which has helped me mold my own coaching style and has given me a better understanding of the needs of a high school athlete,” said MacArthur.

While keeping in mind that high school coaches work hard to balance championships and the development of athletes, they are also challenged with budgets, quality of facilities, and physical and emotional abilities of their players.  Coaches in New York State are also required to meet certain demanding certifications to coach in high schools.

“For my first season, I was told I didn’t have much of a budget and told them I needed two things for the season: a bus to drive the girls to away matches and practices and balls for practices and games,” said Dr. Russell Hesselton who was previously head coach of a very successful Catholic Central High School (NYSPHSAA Section 2) girls’ tennis team for eight years.

“I used to run a program over the summer out of my own pocket,” said Hesselton.  “I offered free lessons to any kids who would come all summer long. The second year I ran the program three other schools from the area were asking to send their kids to my tennis lessons.”

Despite the budget being his biggest of challenges, Hesselton still had a strong interest to coach and wanted to pass along his love for tennis down to his players.

“I enjoyed eight years of coaching high school and I only had one parent upset with me who felt like his daughter should be playing singles,” Hesselton said.  “I reminded him that as a coach I have a commitment to do what’s best for the team and athlete.”

Dr. Hesselton’s commitment and passion for coaching has been beneficial for him as he is now a men’s and women’s tennis coach at the collegiate level.

One more circumstance that makes achieving those goals more challenging is when a coach is related to his/her athlete, whether it be a mom, dad, aunt, uncle or in Destiny Wierbicki’s case, her grandfather.

“The relationship a coach and player should have is a respectful one,” said Wierzbicki, a Troy high school (NYSPHSAA Section 2) graduate and current softball player at The Sage Colleges. “In the beginning, having my grandfather as a coach was somewhat difficult. I had to flip the switch that determined the way in which I would interact with him as my coach or family member. I quickly learned that as soon as I stepped on the field, I knew that my personal life and things relating to our family weren’t to be brought up.”

It is apparent that the relationship between the two was a positive and successful one as Wierzbicki and her teammates made it to the Final Four in three of her four years as a varsity athlete.

Longwood High School (NYSPHSAA Section 11) graduate River Seybolt praises how his high school coaches gave him the tools to continue a college career.

“My coaches pushed me to be the best I could,” said Seybolt. “Even when they had to motivate me by using a negative, it taught me to find a way to improve. My high school coaches really gave me a foundation for hard work and improvement.”

In 2015, Seybolt was named Skyline Conference Mens Soccer Rookie of the Year. Without the foundation that his high school coach built for him, Seybolt may have never been as successful as he is.

Although a lot of time and dedication go in to coaching, it is a very rewarding job. A coach has the power to impact an athlete’s entire athletic career as well as rest of their life.

            “What I like to do with the kids I coach is teach them bigger lessons than just on the court,” said Tyler Schnaible, a Shenendehowa (NYSPHSAA Section 2) graduate and coach at Capital Sliders Volleyball Club. “I enjoy helping my athletes progress and watching them develop as players. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing them go on to play in college and have a great career.”

Coaches get into the profession primarily for the love of the game. Thanks to the commitment of athletes, support of communities and manageable budgets, there are many coaching careers prospering in high schools. The goal on the field at any level may be to win games however, whether it be youth, high school, college or the professional level, it isn’t just about the wins and losses but rather the development of character, personality, and skills both on and off of the playing field.