Dear coaches,

How coaches have impacted seniors


Coaches mentor athletes and work to make them better players. With student-athletes spending nearly every afternoon with their coaches for multiple months. But coaches are more than instructors. They become inspirations, friends and people’s biggest supporters. This has been the case for our teams as well. Scholars at the Harris School of Public Policy analyzed hundreds of seasons of data, including wins and losses and sports scores and statistics. They estimated that coaches account for 20%to 30% of the variation in team outcomes. 

Reid Messman is a varsity field hockey captain and plays varsity lacrosse, both of which she has been playing since her eighth-grade year. Some coaches over the years have stood out the most.

“My favorite coaches are my current lacrosse coaches [Taryn Hannam-Zatz, Kate Manning, and Sarah Chamness],” Messman said. “They are my favorite because they are super understanding and empathetic but still put us in our place.”

Athletes often create a special bond with their coaches. 

“A good coach is someone you look up to and leads by example,” Messman said. “They are someone you can talk to, but also know how to work you hard… Our coaches have impacted us greatly because they stepped up when our old coaches left us right before the season. They built trust and friendships amongst the team while still being intense to win games.”

“Some of my favorite memories have been the team bonding activities like team dinners or scavenger hunts,” Messman said. “Also, a definite highlight has been winning tough games! I have made some of my best friends through sports… Also, playing in 8th grade helped me adjust a lot better to high school because I already had some friends, and I got used to a more rigid schedule. It was also really nice to have a scheduled time to destress, see friends and be active.”

Messman plans after high school to continue both sports. She will attend the University of Virginia in the fall, trying out for club lacrosse and playing intramural field hockey. 

Sports impact students for the better, providing an outlet for stress, a place to make friends and work on athletic skills. According to the National Institute of Health, “Positive effects from sports are achieved primarily through physical activity, but secondary effects bring health benefits such as psychosocial and personal development and less alcohol consumption.”

Messman’s coaches have taught her how to play her sports and life lessons. 

“They have taught me a lot about communication on and off the field,” Messman said. “They also have taught me useful skills like showing up on time and being committed. They also have been a great example for me balancing work and coaching while still being great leaders and friends to us.”

Laura Nowalk is a varsity basketball and cross-country captain. She was also on varsity lacrosse, all three of which she has done since freshman year. Nowalk believes sports have been greatly beneficial to her high school experience.

“Sports have really allowed me to understand the importance of putting in hard work in order to achieve your goals: you really can’t get better unless you take the time to do so,” Nowalk said. “They’ve also introduced me to so many new people, and I have learned how to be both a good leader and a good follower. Sports have helped me understand the importance of enthusiasm and cheering people on, too.”

Some of her best memories from high school have been with coaches. 

“My favorite memories are the lacrosse talent show we had this year at the Annandale tournament, our unofficial game against the boy’s team last year, and working at the girl’s lacrosse summer camp,” Nowalk said.

Nowalk has had many coaches over the years; her most impactful ones have been her current lacrosse coaches. 

“My favorite coaches have been the varsity coaches like Coach T. and Coach Kate,” Nowalk said. “I wasn’t really sure about how they would be or if they could add to our program last year, but I’ve found them both really knowledgeable and eager to help us win with really good strategies and ways to pick up our team morale. They’ve also emphasized things off the field that I hadn’t had an adult make a focus on before, like effective communication and positive mindsets.”

Coaches help build kids into adults and teach them life-long skills. Nowalk highlights the school coaches for their team building.

“Our coaches have certainly changed the team dynamic: they’ve really emphasized working together and having everybody contribute as opposed to making the team focused around 2 or 3 players, which is really refreshing to hear and enjoyable to play with,” Nowalk said. “They have made me more comfortable sharing my thoughts during team huddles and asking for help when I am confused or need it. They’ve also made lacrosse a positive environment that I feel like I have a place on and they are people I will be able to ask questions and have good relationships with both on and off of the field.”

Good coaches make or break a team. A good coach inspires their kids and has strong leadership skills. 

“A good coach is prepared to give players input when they ask for it, can point out strengths and weaknesses, get players excited to play, and is really knowledgeable about the sport,” Nowalk said. “Being relatable is also a plus in my book.”

Norwalk plans to study neuroscience at the University of Virginia on the pre-med track while continuing to run and possibly participate in cross-country. She hopes to play lacrosse and plans on coaching basketball sometime soon.

Laura South is a senior playing for the school club ice hockey team, where she is a captain . She is also on the Nashville Jr. Predators (outside of school) and plays flag football. 

“I have been playing hockey for 13 years and goalie for 8 years,” South said. “My favorite coaches have been both the coaches for my high school and travel teams.”

Good coaches have impacted South in many different ways. 

“My coaches have impacted me far beyond hockey,” South said. “They have helped me with my college process, pushed me to excel in school, and really looked out for my well-being. Sports have helped me learn how to efficiently manage my time, they have connected me with some of my best friends, and they have given me great memories that truly will last a lifetime. Good coaches push good players to be great, and that really helps dictate the team’s success. A team can have good players, but coaches help them play well together, and really help their teams succeed.”

Some of South’s favorite memories are with her teams and coaches.

“My favorite team memory for W-L is winning the state championship last year because it was my first state title that I got to play in, and it felt good to be able to play a role in that win,” South said. 

Next year, South is off to the University of Vermont, where she will study biology on a pre-med track and continue playing hockey on their club team. She hopes to pick up an intramural sport or two and ski and snowboard often.

Coaches impact their athletes more than they know.

“A good coach pushes you to be a better version of yourself and pushes you to compete at your best level, but one who also understands that some things have to come before sports and supports you in your non-sport life as well,” South said.