St. Andrew’s has some of the most talented junior varsity and varsity athletes, who devote a great amount of time and effort into making themselves the best they can be for the sake of St. Andrew’s and themselves.
Here, at SA, we have over 15 sports, ranging from a single-gender to co-ed, all with successful progress and very talented athletes.
But, there is one question: who is in charge of these very responsible players? The SA coaching staff focuses on making the best possible athletes.
Basketball coach Sarah Spann has always wanted to coach female basketball, especially since she, herself, was an athlete in high school and college.
“I have always wanted to coach girls especially after playing basketball in high school and 2 years at the collegiate level,” Spann said. “The game of basketball taught me how to play with girls who look different, act different, and think different, but we were able to connect to reach a common goal that would benefit the team.”
Spann has learned how to coach athletes from her own coaches, who inspired her to coach female athletes.
“From my experience having a male coach,” Spann said. “I saw ways how I could connect with girls in a very encouraging and motivating way.”
The strategies coaches use when guiding females and males can also be different.
“I think females are more sensitive when it comes to teamwork. What I mean by that is from my experience; females take a little longer than males to develop good teamwork because they do not know how to separate their feelings when it comes to competing and working together,” Spann said. “You really have to train and teach females to let go of the ‘I and Me’ mentality and embrace the ‘We and US’ mentality.”
SA Volleyball coach and Assistant Athletic Director Meaghan Denney also has many years of experience with female athletes, thanks to her past of playing volleyball in high school and college.
“I would only want to coach a sport that I know a lot about and could really help the students. I grew up playing basketball and volleyball but really grew to love volleyball and ended up playing at Mississippi State University,” Denney said. “I helped coach some club volleyball while I was still a student at State and then when I took the job at St. Andrew’s.”
Being Assistant Athletic Director, Denney sees many different types of players, both male and female.
“I have noticed that with boys teams, coaches seem to be able to be a little tougher on them than those who coach females,” Denny said.
Football Coach Johnny Nichols primarily coaches males, but has also spent time in the past coaching women’s softball, seeing both sides of the equation.
“Football is a team sport and my goal is that the kids learn lessons from team sports, to be able to compete at a certain level, to overcome certain situations, and to get better throughout the year,” Nichols said. “I want them to get better each week, week-in and week-out, with whoever they’re playing.”
While the athletes are the ones expected to learn and to be successful, the coaches also experience major life lessons and find a great deal of pleasure from coaching.
“My goal as a coach is to help players grow. To teach them that nothing is handed to them in life, that you have to earn everything. You have to work hard everyday and do not sell yourself short,” Spann said. “To me, coaching basketball is amazing, but seeing girls grow more as individuals than basketball players is priceless.”
One thing to remember is that the athletes are not one dimensional. Building a relationship between players and coaches can prove to beneficially affect their production on the court or field and can make them become better people overall.
“I think there are a lot of things that make someone a good coach, but ultimately I think it is the impact you have on the students. Yes I love to win, but it is also about building relationships with the students to where you are someone they feel safe with, can come talk to, etc,” Denney said. “It has to be about the kids and your influence on them more than the wins and losses.”
Overall, the coaching staff at SA are all extremely talented in their work and realize that building a relationship with the athletes can determine the success of the season. In addition, any relationship between a player and a coach is more valuable than a win could ever be.