1. What do you love about coaching at your school?
As a Lower School teacher, one of the things I enjoy about coaching at GA is getting to see children grow and mature. Coaching in the Middle School and the Upper School allows for me to participate long after a child has left my grade level. Another thing I enjoy is the student-athletes treat me differently as a result of being a Lower School teacher. No matter the sport (watching or coaching), I always get a wave or a 'Hello Mr.Wetzel/Coach' from former students.
2. Best coaching moment/memory?
There is not just one moment. I have been coaching for many years and as a result there have been wonderful wins, agonizing defeats, and tremendous individual as well as team achievements that have played a role in my development as a coach. Having worked in three sports with both young men and women, I have learned as much from the student-athletes as I have from the coaches I have worked for and with.
3. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
As a coach, I set the tone. The student-athletes and parents will look to me for leadership, direction, and most of all, honesty. I was told that by being honest with myself and my athletes, and by setting clear boundaries and guidelines, no one will ever be able to say I have not been forthright with them as individuals or as a team.
4. What advice would you give to Middle School student hoping to play your sport in Upper School?
I would offer three items for them to consider:
First: Ask yourself, 'Am I a team player?' Ever since I was a Upper School athlete there has always been the "I should have made varsity" argument, or the "I play on a better club team than her/him" argument. These approaches are always athlete/parent centric. This mindset fails to take the team into account and as such is self-defeating. The definition of a team sport is that players have roles. Track, swimming, tennis, golf, darts, are all simpler as the participant has no one else to blame when they lose. On a team, the team is only as good as the work they do together. If an athlete wants to be successful, it is incumbent upon them to play a role to help the team succeed. Often this means pushing those who the coach has chosen to play over you, that way you get better, the other player gets better, and most importantly the team gets better.
Second: 'Am I willing to check my ego at the door?' Let your play do the talking and don't tell me how good you are or what club team you play for. Put your head down and work hard. Listen. Do what is asked of you. Practice like you play. If you want to play, you have to put in the work as there will always be athletes willing to work harder than you or who are more talented than you.
Third: Ask yourself, 'How much do I want to work?' I have coached in the Middle School, JV, and varsity programs while at GA for both boys and girls. Athletes can love the game and learn just as much on a 3rd team as they can on a varsity team. Most coaches I have ever played for/worked under/worked with all have an idea of what their team will look like. Athletes who last touched a ball at the end of last season have not worked as hard as the athlete who spent all summer training. This makes a difference.
Many athletes just want to play, while others want to make/start on the varsity. This takes an incredible amount of dedication and time. Just because you are a sophomore/junior does not mean you make the varsity squad. This is something earned, not something given. But the most challenging thing as a coach is when an athlete really puts in the work, does everything you ask, and cannot beat their best time, cannot become a starter, or sees others play over them. These are difficult messages to deliver.
5. Who has been your greatest coaching mentor?
I am an amalgamation of all the coaches I have ever played for and coached with. I have also learned a great deal from listening and talking to coaches of other sports to gather ideas, training methods and philosophies.
I learned a great deal from the college coach who treated me like a number and made me hate the game.
I learned a lot from those that hired/allowed me to learn from them while working with students at GA (Pat Gray, Patrick David 1760, Chris Fehrle, Brendan Sullivan, Tonja Magerman, Robert Moyer, Tim Ginter, and Richard Shoulberg 1760). If I was forced to choose one of those it is "Shoulberg". He was my coach as a Upper School student and the challenges he set before me played a role in how I learned about myself.
As a fledgling coach and teacher, he took me on in his renown swimming program and taught me how to relate to athletes as people, and then as athletes. It is this latter point that was invaluable. The ability to relate to all the athletes, make them feel needed and wanted, to praise their successes and feel their defeats, and to help them find their place/role on the team is the greatest lesson I could have learned as a teacher and coach. We had a lunch a few weeks ago and he asked about my team, how we were doing, and if they were 'good kids'. I was happy to say they are. I thank all the coaches above for letting me learn from their successes and their mistakes. They have given me the tools to work with the modern young athletes at GA.
6. What is your favorite movie?
I was a cinephile as a teen and college student and watched almost everything I could when it came out on VHS/DVD. From Animal House to the Godfather, Jaws to Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark to The Natural, Underworld to 28 days later, spaghetti westerns to Shawshank, I enjoy a variety of movies. They act as benchmarks to moments in my life and as such I can't pick one.
"The GAme Of The Week" is a series that highlights one varsity team per week during the school year. Go GA!