Manhattan College students aid school sports teams

Natalie Sweet, Staff Writer

While many Upper Division students can be spotted making daily trips to Manhattan College (MC) for Starbucks, MC students make the trip to their neighboring school, Horace Mann, for an entirely different reason: to coach a variety of the school’s athletic teams, ranging from JV Basketball to Track and Field and Crew.

The coaching fellowship program was created between the school and Manhattan College in the fall of 2017 and has led to the addition of many young coaches to the school’s athletics program since. The mentorship program was created with the need for more coaches on the school’s teams, Athletics Director Robert Annunziata said.

Before becoming a coach, MC students set up a meeting with Annunziata where they discuss their athletic backgrounds and availabilities, which includes a five day per week required commitment to the program, he said.

“A big part of my first meeting with the Manhattan College students is seeing how they will form relationships with our athletes,” Annunziata said. “It’s all about finding the right fit,” he said.

After this initial meeting, the MC students are introduced to the HM coach that will become their mentor for the season, Annunziata said. They shadow the coach for the season, and if they wish to continue with the program after that, they receive a fellowship that includes a stipend, he said. From there, the MC students may be promoted to assistant coach, he said.

For the MC students, the program provides an opportunity for them to learn and grow as a physical education student, Annunziata said. “It’s a way for them to measure where they think they might want to continue their career,” he said.

One of the first MC students to join the program was Angelio Grutton, a Cross Country and Track and Field coach who started coaching at the school in the fall of 2017.

Grutton found out about the opportunity from an email sent by his department chair, he said. Since then, he has coached all three seasons of running sports at the school since 2017.

Grutton was interested in becoming a coach because he was a runner himself until getting injured in college, which forced him to retire prematurely, he said.

“It’s another way for me to use my skills to help athletes and engage in a different aspect of the same sport I love,” he said.

Grutton helped other Manhattan College students become involved in the program through sharing his experience coaching at the school. For example, Gabby Montez started her fellowship at the school in the winter of 2017, shadowing the Girls Varsity Basketball Coach: Ray Barile.

During the shadowing fellowship, Montez talked to Barile after games to get insight about his philosophies and what it’s like to coach, she said. After shadowing Barile for the 2017-2018 season, Montez became the Assistant Coach of Girls JV Basketball the following winter season, she said.

To Montez, the main difference between shadowing Barile and being a coach herself is the change from learning to teaching, she said. “When I came to JV to coach, I was the one teaching the students instead of learning from someone else,” she said. “During the JV season, I was in a bigger coaching role, where I was helping plan practices and figuring out plays,” she said.

“After our games, Coach Gabby and I would speak to the team together,” Barile said. “Since she shadowed me during the Varsity Basketball season, she was able to take what she learned to coach JV Basketball the following year,” he said.

While the program does not fulfill any academic requirements, many coaches do find the job beneficial for their major, Annunziata said.

Coaching at the school has made him more engaged in his own career path, MC student and Track and Field Coach Will Cruz said.

“Through helping the runners stay uninjured and stretching with the team, this job has helped me get very involved in physical therapy, which is what I want to do,” Cruz said.

Since almost all the coaches previously played their sport in high school, many students find their experience helpful too. Working with Grutton in both cross-country and track and field was extremely beneficial because of this quality, Natalia Mason (11) said.

“Since [Grutton] was a runner himself in high school and college, he was really able to help me with my running form and technique,” she said.

Manhattan College coaches are also able to help with workouts by participating in them. Matt Kovalchuk, who coaches football and JV basketball, often scrimmages with the basketball team, Jake Federman (11) said.

JV Football and JV Baseball coach Liam Hallinan says that this aspect of training with the athletes keeps practices enjoyable. “During the football season, I covered receivers and defensive backs,” he said. “When you make it fun, everyone stays engaged,” he said.

Varsity Football, JV Basketball, and Varsity Baseball Coach Tommy Morales finds that being a young coach is very beneficial to his relationship with the players, he said. “Since I played all of those three sports which I coach during high school, I can connect with the athletes better,” he said.

Many student athletes are extremely grateful for Manhattan College coaches, from their supportive attitude to their helpful tips for the team.

“In practice, I was super tired and wasn’t feeling well, but then Liam gave me an amazing motivational speech and [I] killed the rest of practice,” Zachary Brooks (12) said.

Ben Goodman (12) appreciated Hallinan’s coaching help, since Hallinan taught him how to long snap a football, he said. Goodman also enjoyed how Hallinan was able to keep the mood on the team light, he said.

“I remember Liam dancing with all of us,” he said. “We had an amazing time and we will miss that.”