Welcome to Coach's Corner! Do you have a question for Director of Athletics Bruce Secrest? Wondering about topics such as scheduling, playing time, or plans for program growth, and think other parents would be interested in the answers too? Please submit your question here. Coach Secrest will answer questions in Enouncements, and an archive of past questions can be found below.

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How do you decide when athletic teams get new uniforms? We evaluate the uniforms for every Middle School, JV, and varsity team each year to ensure that they are in good shape, the athletes will feel proud to wear them, and they will represent the school well. It is our goal that we replace them as often as needed and possible. We keep a rotational calendar to keep track of each of our 43 team’s uniforms; however, some teams are harder on uniforms than other teams, so it’s not an exact schedule in which every team is set to get a new uniform at a certain time.

This schedule of uniform replacement for all teams is relatively new for Steward. In the past, we would hand varsity uniforms down to the JV and Middle School teams. We now buy new uniforms for all teams. We started this rotational schedule for new uniforms for all teams in the 2015-16 school year, and by 2018-19, we will have replaced all the uniforms that needed to be replaced at that time. If you have questions about a specific team’s uniforms, please feel free to reach out to the Athletics Department directly.

Tell me about Steward’s new diving program. We are so excited about our new diving team for Middle and Upper School students. The Spartan Divers will join an existing team of divers from Collegiate School and Trinity Episcopal School to practice and compete together. Middle School teacher Diane Maiese leads this team, a role for which she was named the 2016 VISAA Diving Coach of the Year. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to befriend and learn together with students from other schools. All interested Middle and Upper School students may join this no-cut team. They will practice separately from Steward’s swim team, which is coached by Eric Hopp. If a student is interested in both swimming and diving, they should reach out to Coach Hopp and Coach Maiese to coordinate.

I heard that there are a lot of Middle School boys playing basketball this winter. How will we handle the large number of students? We are fortunate to have so many of our Middle School students interested in playing basketball! This is a great example of how Steward’s no-cut policy and our focus on athlete development is working exactly as it should.

So that every student can have a playing experience that is positive, fairly competitive, and appropriate to their skill level, we will have six Middle School boys basketball teams this year, comprising more than 60 players total. Two of these teams will compete inter-scholastically all season long. The other four teams will spend the majority of the season playing intramurally, and we are currently working to schedule some interscholastic games that will take place at the end of the season.

All six of these teams will receive the same uniforms and they will all practice at the same time. Each student will be thoughtfully placed on a team so that they can learn, compete, and enjoy the game. Bob Foley, a former University of Richmond coach, will join Coach Heidler, Coach Kassab, and me in working with our coaches to plan practices, drill, and skills development.

The number of Middle School girls playing basketball this winter remains steady from past years. There will be one Middle School team, as well as the JV team that includes grade 8 students.

What relationship do the varsity coaches have to the other teams (JV and Middle School) within their programs? The varsity coaches direct their entire program, and our goal is that they work in close partnership with the other coaches in their sports. This enables a seamless experience for our students as they advance through the program, with consistency among highlighted skills, drills, and player development. Throughout the season, varsity head coaches meet with the JV and Middle School coaches and occasionally attend their practices.

What is the best way for my child’s caregiver (babysitter, grandparent, etc.) to sign up to receive athletics communications? To request that additional family members receive coach’s communications through the team pages, please email Assistant Director of Athletics Christen Heidler at Christen.Heidler@stewardschool.org. Non-family members are encouraged to sign up for notifications by visiting StewardSpartans.org. Click on “Notify Me” (in the top right-hand corner). You will need to sign up for a username and password. Then, it will take you through a three-step process on signing up for text and/or email notifications:

  1. Fill in the requested information.
  2. Select the desired team schedule (left) and desired practice (right) you wish to follow. Note: you can follow as many “events” as you’d like.
  3. Customize the notification, i.e. If you want to receive notifications on the day of/hour before, etc. You can just choose the ‘default’ setting which will notify you only when there are changes.

If you have any questions, please contact Mrs. Heidler at Christen.Heidler@stewardschool.org.

I know that my child’s coach is sending out information to parents via email, but I’m not receiving it. Why? Your settings for coach’s email communications are the same as your settings for any other email you receive from Steward. The email address and preferences that you provided to the school at enrollment/reenrollment are also used for athletics communications. If you would like to update your preferences for athletics only, please contact Mrs. Heidler at Christen.Heidler@stewardschool.org. If you’d like to change your preferences for all Steward email communications, please email statuschange@stewardschool.org.

What do I do if I have a question for a coach? Before, during, and after games, it’s best to let the coaches focus on the team and the game. They are most equipped to answer your questions off the field and not at game time. At the beginning of each season, your child’s coach should indicate his or her preferred method of communication. Typically, the best thing to do is email the coach to set up a time to meet in person or talk on the phone.

Whom do I contact with questions about the athletics section of the website or the athletics app? If you have a question about the athletics app or athletics content on our website, including team pages, athletics calendar, or signing up for notifications, please contact Assistant Director of Athletics Christen Heidler at Christen.Heidler@stewardschool.org.

How is the athletics budget allocated? The Athletic Department budget supports the entire program, including needs like transportation and supplies. There are not separate budgets per sports program. Every year, we work with each coach to analyze the needs of every team in the program. We then make allocations for items like uniforms and equipment with the needs of the entire program in mind. We are lucky that our athletic department receives strong support from both the school and the Spartan Club, so we are typically able to honor every coach’s requests for their teams.

Why are there eighth-grade students on varsity teams? The first possible reason is that the player’s high skill level makes it appropriate for them to “play up,” so that they may continue to develop. The other reason might be that there is a small number of participants for that sport, and we need as many qualified players as possible to comprise the team. In either scenario, the coach will always confer with Athletic Department and Middle School leadership to ensure that the player is developmentally ready for the commitment of a varsity season before the player is offered a spot.

My child’s grandparents would like to come watch his games, but the trek out to the baseball field and further athletic fields is a long one from the parking lot. Is there anything you can do to help? Our Athletics and Facilities teams are pleased to offer golf cart transportation to the athletic fields for anyone who needs assistance. To schedule your ride, please call Bruce Secrest at 804-565-2305 (office) or 804-399-0527 (cell) or Christen Heidler at 804-740-3394, ext. 3406. If possible, please call in advance to arrange a time to meet in the parking lot. Or, if needed, you may call when you arrive and we will come meet you with the golf cart as soon as possible.

What sort of professional development opportunities do our coaches participate in? Our coaches regularly participate in professional development. Our athletic leadership believes this is a priority for helping our coaches enhance their skills; stay current; build knowledge about the sport, teaching techniques, drills, and terminology; and stay inspired to learn and grow. Often, our coaches regain a newfound love of the game. Our coaches participate in all sorts of professional development opportunities, from local day clinics to national, Olympic-style coaching seminars.

Do we encourage students to specialize in a single sport year round? Year-round specialization is an individual decision made by students and their families. Steward encourages and supports our students in all of their athletic participation, whether they choose to specialize year-round in a single sport, play different sports every season, or only play certain seasons of the year.

How is the weight room used to support Steward’s student-athletes? The weight room is typically available every school day to all of our athletes. Teams are allotted time in the weight room so that they may work together under the guidance of our strength coach, Adam Lonon '06. Coach Lonon customizes workouts specific to each team and their sport. Each team is given scheduled time together in the weight room year round. In-season training is focused on injury prevention, and off-season training is focused on strength development. Additionally, the weight room is open to the entire Steward community for individual workouts if scheduled by Coach Lonon.

Do we offer scholarships to athletes? We do not offer athletic scholarships, in keeping with the rules of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA). We do offer Variable Tuition (which is based on a family's financial profile) to qualified students, as well as merit scholarships for Upper School students in which one of the factors is athletic contribution, alongside academics, arts, leadership, and character.

Do we allow athletes to reclassify? Reclassification is the decision for a student to register for school with a graduating class later than his/her original class. At Steward, reclassification decisions are based upon academics, social/emotional needs, and age. Steward does not allow students to reclassify for athletic reasons. However, reclassification does have an impact on the individual’s athletic involvement. For students who do reclassify, they must do so before their tenth-grade year or they will lose a year of athletic eligibility, per TCIS rules.

What do I need to keep in mind when I bring my dog to watch games? We know that pets can be their human’s greatest fans, and we love dogs and other pets. However, we request that you not bring dogs on campus for games or any other reason, in order to keep things clean and safe for our children and families. Service dogs are, of course, welcome at all times.

Do we work with college coaches to facilitate collegiate recruitment? Yes. Our Athletic Department and our individual coaches utilize a process that we have honed over years of coaching. As you’ll see in this “College Athletics 101” presentation that Director of Athletics Bruce Secrest created with Assistant Athletics Director Christen Heidler and Director of College Counseling Heather Jeter, Steward has a process that our coaches follow to best serve the needs of our student athletes.

How do athletes find Steward? Many of our coaches coach and referee in leagues outside of Steward, as well as summer athletic camps and clinics. In addition, athletes hear about Steward through friends and family, including coaches from travel teams. According to Virginia Independent School Athletic Association rules, Steward (like all independent schools) is prohibited from recruiting athletes. Therefore, coaches may not approach a student from another school to talk to them about Steward, but if an athlete or family approaches one of our coaches, they may then talk about our school.

Once a student applies to Steward, the same admittance and Variable Tuition criteria are applicable for athletes as any other student. We recognize that athletic participation is one way, among many, that a student can contribute to the Steward community. This process holds true for every sport we offer.

How do you find coaches? We have a permanent feature on the employment page of our website in which anyone who is interested in coaching at Steward can submit their information at any time, and we’ll reach out to them when a position becomes available. In addition, when we have an opening, we may contact people we know in the community who we think would be a good fit and/or post the opening on our website.

In terms of qualifications, there are not set criteria. We always look to our faculty first, but coaches are chosen based on the best fit for the coaching position, the school, and our students. Typically, we are looking for someone with deep, well-rounded experience playing and/or coaching the sport who also has strong interpersonal skills.

How does Steward invest in athletics? Financially, we invest in coaches’ professional development opportunities and stipends, as well as facilities (including our award-winning fields), equipment for our athletes, and off-season playing opportunities with coaches. But investment is about much more than money: the intangible investment of care, encouragement, and time that our coaches give to our players is invaluable. We make every effort to stay on the forefront of training techniques and to run a first class program, from fields, equipment, and uniforms to coaches who inspire not just winning, but also teamwork and sportsmanship.

Why do we not have more on-campus teacher/coaches? We choose our teachers, first and foremost, on their academic qualifications. However, we do always keep an eye out for teachers who are also qualified to succeed as coaches. All things being equal, a candidate who is willing to and able to coach will have a distinct advantage in the hiring process.

How do I find a team schedule? Last year, as a result of parent feedback, Steward implemented rSchoolToday as part of our website, which includes game and practice schedules, coach information, and team rosters. To access the system, hover over the yellow 'Athletics' tab on the main page of the school’s website and click 'Athletic Calendar' in the dropdown menu. rSchoolToday is also linked throughout the school’s website wherever there is an Athletic Calendar link.

One of the best features about rSchoolToday is the ability to sign up to add specific team events to your personal calendar and receive text and/or email notifications when there are changes or cancellations to games and practices. There is also a free app you can download to access schedules from your mobile device. Simply search 'rSchoolToday Activity Scheduler' in your app store.

Are there any athletics opportunities for Lower School students? Yes! We currently have Lower School basketball, tennis, and soccer developmental programs that meet after school or on weekends. In the spring, we will offer girls lacrosse and co-ed golf. In these programs, we encourage skill development and love of playing.

Could a Lower School student play on a Middle School team if he or she has a qualifying skill level? Our policy is that only Middle School students in grades 6-8 may play on Middle School athletic teams. However, a Middle School student’s athletic ability may merit he or she “playing up” on a JV team (for grades 6, 7, or 8) or varsity team (eighth graders only). We do have developmental programs for our Lower School students, and we look forward to having them join our teams once they enter Middle School.

Can you explain the protocol for concussion pre-screening—what does the test consist of and who performs it? How is that then used if an athlete becomes injured? Does Steward’s trainer have immediate access to the pre-screen test results if there is cause for concern? Our trainer administers a baseline concussion test to all JV and varsity players at the beginning of their first playing season of the school year. We use a program called ImPACT, a computer-based test that provides healthcare professionals and athletic trainers with objective measures of cognitive functioning as an assessment aid with concussion management. A baseline test is good for two years. If an athlete does suffer a concussion, then they take a “post-injury” test and the two assessments are compared. Our trainer can easily access these reports from a digital device. If a second, medical opinion is necessary, then the doctor will work hand-in-hand with our trainer.

How do coaches determine athletes’ playing time?
For Varsity and JV teams, both team selection and playing time are based upon skill level, attitude, and work ethic. In the Middle School, our no-cut policy allows all interested students the opportunity to join the team and learn about collaboration and leadership, as well as build their skills. Middle School coaches are strongly encouraged to include all players to gain game experience. Like with Varsity and JV, Middle School playing time is not guaranteed, and it’s also based upon skill level, attitude and work ethic.

What’s the best way to share a concern with a coach?
If problems arise, parents are encouraged to confer with a coach at a mutually convenient time. Issues impacting a student athlete deserve focused time, attention, and thought by all involved. Therefore, discussing a concern before, during or after a game or practice is prohibited. Frequently, when parents and coaches meet, I will join those conversations. And I am always available to assist with any concerns not resolved by the coaching staff.

How are the decisions made about divvying up teams?
On the Middle School level, we consider all factors in order to make decisions that work best for our players and coaches. Our goal is to divide the teams based on grade level whenever possible, but that’s not always appropriate based on number of players and individual skill levels. For JV and Varsity teams, assignments are determined based on skill level, attitude and work ethic.

How do you decide when to add an additional team?
At the beginning of each season, we evaluate needs based on number of players, skill level, and opportunities for playing time. We make the decision to add an additional team when the number of qualified players supports that decision.





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