Rawlins Troop: From father to coach

Emily Sun, Staff Writer

“Everybody goes into teaching thinking that they want to make a positive difference in somebody’s life,” Associate Athletic Director Rawlins Troop said.

That very mindset has defined Troop’s 39 years as a teacher and coach at the school. He grew up skiing, playing tennis, and watching football in Peekskill, NY. His desire to become an educator came from his childhood experience with some of his own teachers, who he said could have done a better job of helping him understand the material at hand.

“When I decided to become a teacher, I hoped that I would always try to be there for my students in every way,” Troop said. “I would try to help everybody and give everyone a chance.”

Troop pursued a teaching degree at the State University of New York and received a Masters of Education at Hunter College. After graduating college, his father introduced him to a teacher at Horace Mann, and, in 1982, Troop started as a Lower Division (LD) teaching assistant in second grade for a year. He then taught kindergarten for three years and fourth grade science and math for the remainder of his time in the LD. During that time, he also coached Varsity Football for seven years.

After 25 years at the LD, Troop moved to the Upper Division (UD) Athletics Department. Troop now coaches Middle Division (MD) and Varsity Tennis as well as Varsity Skiing, is an MD advisor, and a UD and MD P.E. teacher. He also worked in the Admissions Office from 2009 to 2019, when he interviewed MD applicants and helped decide who to admit.

Troop coached all five of his children on sports teams at the school — Nick Troop ‘04 and Max Troop ‘07 on Varsity Football, and Joe Troop ‘10, Caroline Troop ‘18, and Kelly Troop (12) on Varsity Skiing. “It’s something very special because I got to spend more time with my kids than most people get to,” he said.

There were times when he found himself holding his children to a higher standard, but his friends steered him to coach them in the same way as other students, Troop said. 

“He’s always allowed us to do our own thing and be our own people at school,” Kelly said. “But if I ever needed anything, I could just walk over, whether that means a hug or advice.”

Associate Director for Middle Division Athletics Coach Robert Harmon said Troop’s perspective as a parent makes him a great resource in the Athletics Department. Troop has experienced his children coming home happy or, at times, frustrated about aspects of their sports such as the try-out process or playing time, and as such is a go-to person for a parent’s perspective on how to handle similar situations, Harmon said. For example, Troop knows that the academic stress which students at the school face might affect their athletic performance, he said.

Troop chose to coach tennis and skiing because he had prior experience playing the sports, but coaching required him to learn a different skill set. “When you watch football as a fan on TV, you’re rooting for your team, not watching the individual spots,” he said. Troop spoke with fellow coaches and studied videos to learn techniques and strategies for football, ski racing, and tennis, which he put to use at practices and tournaments. 

Coach Patrick Westoo taught Troop how to look for what students could do to win a tennis match, he said. “Should you keep your opponent on the baseline more? Do you want to bring your serve out wide? Do you want to put more topspin on the ball because they’re not hitting their backhand well?”

Troop also has to gauge when to be tough on students and when to be more encouraging based on how they perform that day, he said. “Sometimes you have to say, ‘We practiced this, you know what to do, now get out there and do it,’” Troop said. “Other times, you tell them, ‘Don’t worry, you’re doing your best out there; we’ll get them next time.’”

“If I ever got discouraged, he would pull me aside, say, ‘You got this,’ and calm me down a bit,” Girls Varsity Tennis Co-Captain Lita Crichton (12) said.

Troop said teaching sports allows him to meet students in a more relaxed setting than he would if he taught academic classes. “If they’re upset by something, you can tell right away and you want to be there for them,” he said. “They’re there for me too — I’ve had bad days and the students pick me right up.”

Academics can be stressful and tiring, so Troop wants students to enjoy their practices, he said. Varsity Skiing has “fun Fridays” where they take a break from practice and play kickball or soccer, Kelly said.

The highlight of Troop’s career is when Girls Varsity Tennis won the Mayor’s Cup in 2018, their first win in many years, he said. The team celebrated, and each member was awarded a trophy. “It brought tears to my eyes,” he said.

On the flip side, one of the toughest parts of coaching is watching students upset after they lose a tournament, Troop said. “It’s okay to wallow in that a little bit, but then you’ve got to move on,” he said. 

Troop stresses good sportsmanship, especially after a tough defeat, he said. When Trinity School beat Girls Varsity Tennis at the Ivy Preparatory Schools League finals, he congratulated the students and coach on the opposing team and encouraged his students to do the same. “The Trinity parents were so surprised, but that’s what you’re supposed to do,” he said. “You have to be gracious in losing.”

In addition to teaching his students about athletics, Troop teaches responsibility and collaboration. It can be hard to balance sports and academics, but he expects that students are prepared and punctual for tournaments, or that they communicate with him if they have to miss one, he said.

Even though Troop coaches individual sports, he wants team members to depend on one another for support. “When our ski team is racing, our students are the only ones in the league who wait for each teammate to come down and cheer for them,” he said. “That’s what I am most proud of.”

On the Varsity Skiing trip last year to Stratton Mountain, Vermont, Troop organized a buffet for the students so they could eat together, Lucca Correia (11) said. “He did a really good job making sure that when everyone’s together, there was more than just an athletics team feeling; it felt like we were skiing together as a family,” he said. “When I think back on the ski team, that’s one memory that I wish I could live over and over again.”

Troop wants sports to be a positive experience for everyone, one in which students can grow closer with their peers, he said. In the years that he coached Varsity Football, he watched captains teach freshmen how to be part of a team and then saw the freshmen pass their experience to younger players. “I hope I bring that out in every team I coach,” Troop said.