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The Record

Get you a coach that can do both

Megha Nelivigi, Staff Writer

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Though it may not always be known, many of the school’s coaches have roles in the community apart from their coaching positions in the Athletics Department.

Physical Education Teacher Rawlins Troop, for instance, also bears the title of Associate Athletic Director, and of Admissions Associate. Troop helps with the admissions process and coaches Girls Varsity Tennis, both MD tennis teams, and the Varsity Ski team.

Troop was hired as a second grade teaching assistant in 1982 and, soon after, became a kindergarten teacher. He later switched to teaching fourth graders for around 20 years, specializing mainly in science and math.

Troop’s initial experience with the Athletics Department was as the assistant coach for the seventh grade girl’s basketball team when Physical Education Teacher RJ Harmon asked him to help coach.

After spending 25 years in the lower school, Troop was offered a position as Associate Athletic Director, along with Harmon and UD Physical Education Department Chair Ray Barile.

Part of his job was to teach PE classes, which he was happy to do, as he made connections with students that he would not have gotten to make otherwise, Troop said.

Errol Spencer ‘16, in addition to being an assistant coach for the water polo and fencing teams, attends NYU, where he is a physics major but comes to school four days a week to help coach.

Balancing his school work with coaching is difficult, he said, but manageable.  “The reason I put so much effort into coming back here is because the HM community gave me so much, and this is my way of giving back,” Spencer said.

Coaching is a little nostalgic for Spencer, especially because some of the students he coaches are people he had previously been on the team with.

“Admittedly, sometimes I forget I’m not actually on the team, but coaching has taught me that there are a lot of weird dynamics in life that I have to get used to. This helps the transition into ‘real life’: I get to stay a part of the community but remove myself slowly as well,” he said.

Many other academic teachers at the school also have a second role as coaches. Computer Science and Robotics Department Chair Jason Torres, for example, is also coach for the Eighth Grade Girls Volleyball and Boys Varsity Volleyball teams.

Torres coaches because for him, coaching is a way to see students in a different light. Some of the students he has gotten to know best are the ones he has coached, he said.

“Coaching is definitely a challenge for most teachers because you have a big commitment to both teaching and the sport you coach. Especially if you have a family at home, it’s harder to make time for everything. I think a lot of teachers would love to coach but have other priorities that are higher,” he said.

Sixth Grade Dean Michelle Amilicia has an alternative position as the coach for the JV Volleyball and JV Softball teams. For her, managing her responsibilities is all about spreading her work out evenly, she said. During busier, more stressful times of the year, being honest and communicating with your students and players is key, Amilicia said.

Because she also teaches a science class, if she is a day late in grading a test because of a game, for example, the best thing to do is to be straightforward with her students, she said.

MD Science Teacher Michael DeGasperi helps coach Varsity Cross Country and Indoor Track. “Coaching is a great distraction for both players and coaches alike in a place where stress levels can become very high very quickly. It’s refreshing to go out there and just run or do whatever comes naturally to you; it’s a physical rather than mental stress,” he said.

Being an assistant coach makes it easier for him to manage his work; if necessary, DeGasperi can show up to practice a few minutes late, or leave a little bit earlier, he said.

Physics Teacher Oleg Zvezdin coaches the Varsity Swimming team.

“I like to coach because it is such a good way to teach things you don’t always have the opportunity to teach in a classroom– commitment, group work, cooperation, etc. From a teaching perspective, there’s a focus on different things,” he said.

For Zvezdin, balancing his workload and coaching isn’t much of a difficulty.

“Coaching is somewhat a relief for my brain– I don’t have to just go home and grade, but I can go over to the pool and hang out with the athletes and help them get better. For me, it’s not really a balance; it’s more of an escape,” he said.

Even though being both a coach and a teacher is often overwhelming for him– some days he is at school for more than 12 hours–, coaching is all about commitment for Zvezdin, and he is committed to doing both, he said.

Director of Athletics, Health & Physical Education Robert Annunziata, serves a number of roles in the community.

Apart from being in charge of the Athletic Department and the sports teams, as well as helping the coaches and student athletes when necessary, Annunziata coaches MD Football, Varsity Fencing, and Varsity Golf.

Other than his love for coaching, Annunziata coaches for two main reasons. Primarily, Annunziata coaches a middle school team to connect to students at that level, so that the students can get a sense for who he is, and for him to get to know the younger students.

“For me, the MD program serves as a theater for the Varsity and Junior Varsity teams– parents and student-athletes can approach the game [of football] in a positive and safe manner and make an informed decision about whether or not the student-athlete will want to join a high school team,” he said.

Annunziata coaches fencing out of pure joy, but golf he considers “a labor of love.”  Though the golf team is one of his bigger coaching commitments, he enjoys the small group of students at the upper division level, as he gets to know his team members not only as golfers or even student-athletes, but as people.

Finding time for all his responsibilities all comes down to time management, he said. Just as students have to balance schoolwork with sports and other extracurriculars, Annunziata said, coaches do the same.

“This will be my 30th year here, and though it is certainly a lot of responsibility, it is a joy to come to work, and I wouldn’t trade my job for any other position in any other place,” Annunziata said.

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Horace Mann's Weekly Newspaper Since 1903
Get you a coach that can do both