If you’re a fan of New Jersey high school volleyball, it’s almost impossible that you haven’t heard of Maria Nolan. She’s currently the head coach of girls volleyball at Immaculate Heart Academy and prior to that was a coach at Secaucus High School.
Throughout her career, she won 28 state championships and held the title of #1 team in NJ nine out of the past twelve years. sportsYou had the opportunity to sit down with Nolan to discuss her successful career and what it took for her to get to where she is now.
sportsYou: What would you say was the highlight of your career as a coach so far?
Maria Nolan: There have been so many highlights during my career but one of the most exciting was receiving the Disney American Teacher Award in 1998. There were 12 categories, such as math, science and English, with three teachers in each. I won the Athletic Coach category. Disney televised the show internationally from LA and Scott Hamilton presented me the award.
Producers came to my high school, which at the time was Secaucus High School. My players and the rest of the student body were part of the video that they produced. It was just so exciting.
I can’t say there’s been one match or one year that stands out as the highlight because I’ve had so many fantastic memories through coaching. Once in a while a team will come along and I’ll think it was the best team I ever coached. But then I’ll think back to other teams that were up there with it. I’ve truly had remarkable experiences through the years.
sportsYou: What are your greatest challenges as a coach and as a teacher?
MN: When you get a new group, which will be happening soon with the start of the season, it’s always a challenge. You work with the players individually and as a group to help them become confident and believe they can achieve. You have to mold the group into a team that will get along and work together for the good of the team. That’s a big part of coaching and the greatest challenge for me.
One of the things I like to do is figure out how to put the right combination of players on the floor to get the best results. It’s not always the way the players or parents want it to be, which has definitely been a challenge over the years. But when you see it come to life and your team is doing very well, it’s so rewarding. The best is when you see the players gain confidence and really enjoy it. That’s what keeps me coaching year after year.
sportsYou: How do you communicate with and manage your team?
MN: We use the sportYou app. We used two other apps before and neither one was great. I had trouble with them. Harrison Hefele spoke at New Jersey’s athletic association, NJSIAA, and explained sportsYou. I mentioned what I didn’t like about the other apps and sportsYou was able to give me better results. Using sportsYou has enabled me to communicate better with my team and their parents.
Our calendar is on it, which is great. A fabulous feature is to send alerts if there are any changes. I’m also able to email and chat with people. Sometimes when I send an announcement, a couple of the parents ‘like’ it and will remark.
sportsYou: What are your strategies for helping players improve year to year?
MN: A lot of repetition, a lot of communication with them to let them know what they need to work on and communicating a lot while we are working with them. Sometimes parents will tell their children to find out what they need to work on. But our feedback is constant throughout the practices. They hear what we are saying to them on how to improve, so it’s doesn’t necessarily require a meeting.
However, we do sit down with the players and set goals. We’ll ask them what they want to improve on. The coaches then tell them what we think needs improving. We’ll then come to an agreement on what to work on for the next two weeks.
sportsYou: Is there anyone in particular who inspired you in your career?
MN: In graduate school the sports psychologist, Dr. Bob Gilbert, from Montclair State University was very instrumental in helping me communicate better as a coach and teaching me the importance of finding the right strategies. I actually invite him to my camp so he can talk to the campers every year.
sportsYou: Do you have advice for young coaches?
MN: I’ve mentored so many over the years. It’s gratifying when they tell me that they’ve learned so much and it’s been a great experience. I feel good about that. When mentoring, you have to keep an eye on them, train them, work with them and guide them. Sometimes you also have to tell them if things aren’t going well and how to change and improve and that’s not easy.
I don’t know that young people understand how much is involved in coaching. To be an assistant coach is very different than being the head coach. There is so much on your shoulders and so much to do and be concerned about. I’m constantly thinking of what I need to do next and what I might be forgetting, so it’s very consuming.
When you coach, you need to get in touch with the media, get all of the stats in right after you’re done playing while you’re tired and want to take a break. It’s not easy. There is a lot to it. You have to work along with players, parents and the administration.
Once you’ve had success, you want to continue to be successful. When you are on top, there is added pressure to remain on top. Last year was an amazing season because we didn’t expect to do that well since we had only one senior. We finished number one in the state the year before and we were concerned if we could do that again.
We just took it little by little, one day at a time and somehow we finished number one again. Now because of that, there is added pressure this season. It never ends as far as pressure goes. But despite all of that, it is rewarding. If it wasn’t, there is no way I would still be coaching.
By Lauren Dubinsky
Good communication is one of the key ingredients for success in almost every facet of life — and team sports is no exception. Todd Sheldon, a varsity-level football and track coach at Mandan High School in North Dakota, said his communication tool of choice is the sportsYou app.
Two weeks before the season starts, he holds a meeting to inform the parents that he will be communicating with them exclusively through the sportsYou app. He tells them they will receive detailed information on what will happen at each practice so the players know to bring the appropriate gear, clothing and other essentials as well as money for food or a packed lunch.
On the app, the parents can view the team calendar, pictures and videos from practices and send instant messages to Sheldon or another parent. The parents typically communicate with each other to organize their own group activities that revolve around the practices and games.
“That way they are not checking 15 different places or looking at emails,” said Sheldon. “They can get it as an app on their phone and get all of the updates as they happen.”
He has held coaching positions at different schools since 1996 but has been a coach at Mandan High School since 2004. He remembers the days when the only way to communicate with the players and their parents was through printed handouts, which he described as “painful and time-consuming.”
About three to four years ago, he was using a different app to communicate with his teams but the features were too rudimentary. It only allowed him to send 100-character messages and there was no way to share the calendar or images.
The sportsYou app has been a very useful tool for Sheldon. He added that sportsYou saves coaches significant time and that it’s most effective if you consistently use it. A couple sports teams at his school don’t use it on a regular basis, so when the coach eventually does send a message, the team and their parents don’t notice.
“The upside of sportsYou is that when you use it and engage in it, it’s going to be successful for everyone - and save time and effort,” he added.
Another thing Sheldon wants other coaches to be aware of is that system updates on the iPad could interrupt the use of sportsYou and other apps. To prevent that, he said to simply make sure to reload the apps after system updates are finished.
“The sportsYou app has worked really well for our football and track program — so well that our baseball program is now using it and our wrestling program has used it over the winter,” said Sheldon.
The boys soccer team and girls volleyball team also plan to start using sportsYou in the fall.
In this current era of smart devices, you can see why it’s a smart idea to use sportsYou as the main tool for communicating with your team and your parents. At the end of the day, we all have busy lives and smart devices are the most convenient way to disseminate information. And remember what Sheldon said — use it and engage in it and sportsYou will be successful for everyone!
Ready to learn more about how to smartly and easily manage your team? Register now for our FREE Team Management Platform Webinar.
You already know that sportsYou simplifies communication between teammates, coaches and families in one comprehensive platform. But did you know that it also serves as a way for teams to stay connected once the season is over?
Being a part of a team builds relationships on and off the field between players, coaches and parents. It is well established that when the season is over the friendships continue – and sportsYou can be used to keep everyone connected and to grow friendships.
During any particular sport season, whether it be baseball in the spring or basketball during the winter, the sportsYou app keeps teammates, friends and families connected all year long - even after the winning touchdown.
Our team and group selection contains everything you need to keep you in the loop with your team once the season is concluded. sportsYou gives you all the useful and necessary tools you need through group chat, document sharing and schedule management to touch base with your circle.
These tools are ideal for off season activities such as group workouts or party plans with your teammates – rather than creating mass group texts, in hopes that everyone from the team was included. sportsYou creates a supportive environment for offseason activities which allows every player, coach and family member feel a sense of belonging to a community.
Sending videos, pictures and files are now easier to share than ever before! sportsYou allows you to share memories to your teammates, friends and family efficiently, which directly results in stronger relationships.
Frustrated by time-consuming scrolling through your camera roll to find the winning away game from last year? No more frustration! sportsYou keeps all of your pictures in an organized fashion, so digging for pictures in your phone’s cluttered camera roll is now a thing of the past.
With sportsYou, your team relationships, your ability to communicate and your memories live on - even though the season has ended!
The age old idiom “A picture’s worth a thousand words” is low - we lean more towards a million. sportsYou makes sharing pictures easier than ever and keeps them in an organized fashion so that you can find the exact picture you’re looking for every time. Here are some of the ways sportsYou guides in staying connected while keeping you and your inner circle close together.
More often than not, family members cannot make it to every single game, especially if they are away games.
If Dad missed his daughter’s winning goal yesterday, he’ll be able to find the uploaded pictures of the victory with just a tap on the sportsYou app!
By giving access to amazing picture moments, everyone feels included, and part of the moment.
Every once in a while we all enjoy taking out the old family photo album and sifting through memories with our loved ones. But, we now live in a time where our photo albums are locked in our phones or backed up to the cloud. Oftentimes there are events in our lives where we wish we had more pictures, but because we don’t they become more of a distant memory as time goes on. sportsYou allows you to retrieve pictures from memorable athletic events that you may have forgotten otherwise.
The more pictures of your sports teams and family on sportsYou, the more memories you can share together!
When you share pictures on sportsYou, you are not just keeping a record, but rather you are helping build a stronger foundation for you and your community. With so many photo opportunities to partake in on a daily basis, everyone in your community is brought together through this memory building activity – and all you have to do is share pictures. Sharing pictures within your team or group is an act of generosity and caring. The more you share, the more everyone feels that wonderful sense of belonging - of being important!
Celebrating any achievement and our friendships can be relived over and over again by revisiting pictures from the past.
We think of our identities through pictures, and so it is important to capture joyful moments in our lives through pictures. The joyful memories of teammates, friendships, celebrations, games, action on a field or court, coaches and families come back to life instantly with just a glance of a picture. That’s the power of a picture.
Don Fish is a seasoned coach with a solid 36 years of experience under his belt. He currently coaches the high school boys varsity soccer team and middle school boys lacrosse team in Port Washington, New York.
In November, his soccer team just barely lost the state semifinals against Clarence with a score of 1-0. But Fish didn’t let that get him or his team down. If anything it brought them all closer together. sportsYou had the opportunity to chat with Fish about his greatest achievements and challenges as well as the strategies he uses to help his teams improve every year.
Don Fish: This season was really extraordinarily special. We had six playoff wins and the experience of traveling with the team to the state championship weekend was great. I’ve always had kids go on to play other places but I feel like it’s a reasonable expectation that this group will get back together because of that shared experience.
It’s kind of silly but I say after you graduate, you’re never going to say to your team members, “Remember when we graduated.” Hopefully you have the option to get married or have a kid and that’s going to be fantastic but you’re not going to say, “Remember when my kid was born,” to a group of 12 people when you’re 60.
I still go to my alumni soccer game for college. We had a memorial game for a couple guys that died just after college. The guys on the team come from Arizona and Georgia from a little division 3 soccer experience. That shared experience we have is really valuable.
DF: As a coach, we’ve got a really short season this year. There is no time to do fitness. The kids have to come in prepared. Soccer specifically is really an organic game. Once you’re in the run of play during a match, I think a coach has a relatively limited opportunity to govern what can happen. You’ve got to have team leaders that can help others solve problems. This kind of relates to the AP physics course that I teach. I’m used to things being difficult for everybody, sometimes myself included. I kind of like it like that.
I don’t want the kids to say they can’t solve a problem. It’s about how we are going to fix what we’re doing to solve that problem.
I don’t want the kids to say they can’t solve a problem. It’s about how we are going to fix what we’re doing to solve that problem. It’s important to have those leaders on the field that are communicating constructively and share the same vision in that they want the team to be successful. Those are things that don’t just happen. You’ve got to cultivate that.
DF: I actually used the beta version of sportsYou two springs ago. It’s a much improved tool right now. That’s my primary way of communicating with my team. I do also text the kids and the captains have their own little text group. I encourage it because I want them to have their own platforms to communicate and not worry about the coaches or the parents even getting involved.
I actually used the beta version of sportsYou two springs ago. It’s a much improved tool right now. That’s my primary way of communicating with my team.
What I like is that I can front-load a lot of stuff. I can put the schedule in and I can click a button and send the location of the game to the parents. When a game is in Cold Spring Harbor and a parent has never been east of Port Washington, it’s great that they can click a button in the app and be able to get there.
For lacrosse, we’re at five different training venues. Sometimes I don’t find out until I’m on the bus that we have to train away from campus. There might be parents coming to pick their kids up at the other field, so I will send a message on sportYou and they get that on the fly.
If all of a sudden there is a thunderstorm at 3:30 and the matches are cancelled across the whole middle school, it’s great to be able to tell them that on this platform. I also can tell the kids at 10:30 in the morning to start hydrating now if I know it’s going to be 85 degrees for the match that day.
It’s also useful to be able to set up groups among my players and send them a video clip of how Oceanside dealt with something when they played Syosset, for example.
It’s also useful to be able to set up groups among my players and send them a video clip of how Oceanside dealt with something when they played Syosset, for example. I could set up groups within the team and not bother everybody. It helps to compartmentalize some of the learning and I think it’s a little less overwhelming for everybody.
DF: This wouldn’t be a popular answer for a lot of people but I support participation in other sports. My soccer players are also on the wrestling team, the winter track team or the basketball team. I know that college lacrosse coaches appreciate that.
I think a lot of soccer folks don’t feel that way. Sometimes soccer and the club coaches tell the kids that they just need to focus on one sport. But even my former students and players who are professional lacrosse players have jobs.
Anytime we have a meeting outside of the season, I remind them that we have got to look out for each other and help each other with decision making such as making healthy choices. If they see that one of their friends is having a hard time and maybe getting drawn into something that they shouldn’t be part of or having some personal strife, they should try to get them help. I don’t want them to call each other out. I just want them to help each other because if any three of them aren’t here, that’s a tragedy.
I’d say part of our success this season was because everybody could play because their academic work was satisfactory. We didn’t have any knuckle-head decision making that led to somebody not being able to finish the season or someone having to take a hiatus.There’s some luck involved there but it’s mostly because the guys are looking out for each other.
DF: My soccer coach freshman year of college hung a lacrosse stick in my locker because we didn’t have locks. He asked me if I got his gift and then told me I’m playing lacrosse. I ended up playing lacrosse for four years and it actually paid for one of my master’s degrees as an NCAA lacrosse official. Then I played 40 club seasons after college all because that coach noticed that I could run and was pretty coordinated.
DF: I think that you want to try to learn as much as you can. For soccer, making sure you get the licenses is really useful. You want to recognize that we’re trying to develop players and support team play.
I try to be mindful of that when I’m planning my training so I can make sure I incorporate something fun or silly even if it’s at my expense.
At the same time you need to have some perspective on what group level you have. I’ve noticed with my own kids whether it was 2nd grade, 6th grade, 8th grade or 11th grade, they were done with a sport when it wasn’t fun anymore. I try to be mindful of that when I’m planning my training so I can make sure I incorporate something fun or silly even if it’s at my expense.
Duke head coach, Mike Krzyzewski or Coach K, reminds coaches to tell their players “You’re good.” When being enshrined into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2001, the following quotes were in Coach K’s speech.
“HE WAS THE FIRST PERSON OUTSIDE OF MY FAMILY WHO BELIEVED IN ME.”
Coach K shares what his high school coach, Al Ostroski, said to him at Webber High School.
“He was the first person outside of my family who believed in me. Believed in me enough to say ‘Go follow your instincts. You’re good’ We don’t say that enough.”
Coaching best practice is to accept the responsibility to be very careful what is said to a player, because it could have the most positive or negative impact on your player.
“THERE’S NO GREATER THING TO BE CALLED, BESIDES ‘DAD’ THEN ‘COACH’.”
Coaching draws on all of your abilities. My dad, Ed Mangiarotti, coached high school basketball, football, and baseball for over 25 years at Walt Whitman High School (Huntington, NY) - and today, at 92 year old, his players from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s call, visit, and reach out on Facebook to express their gratitude to and share memories with “Coach”. It’s the relationship they remember - as well as the memories of players, coaches, games, situations, and the fun.
Coaching best practice is to create a good relationship with each player.
“YOU’RE EITHER ON THE TRAIN OR YOU’RE NOT ON THE TRAIN.”
Coaching a group of players in their later teens and early 20s, when independence starts to occur, is a challenge. Getting your players to get “on the train”, to buy-in to your team culture, truly occurs when trust is built.
Coaching best practice is to gain trust through non-evaluative relationships with each individual player. Not judging, while supporting your players, grows trust.
“YOU’RE GOOD. WE DON’T SAY THAT ENOUGH.”
Players look to coaches for confidence. When a player lives in fear of being accused of making a mistake, the growth of that player is severely curtailed. Coaches letting players immerse themselves in the game and practice situations, free from being pulled out or called out by a coach - leads to optimal performance and growth as a player.
Coaching best practice is to help players gain confidence by allowing them to be comfortable in practice and the game.
“NONE OF US CAN DO WHAT ALL OF US CAN DO.”
Accountability to act in the best interests of the team, at all times, creates a culture of interdependence. When every player buys-in to the fact that they need to cooperate by adhering to team principles and rules, then the team’s success can be optimized.
Coaching best practice is to require players to adhere to team principles and rules for the good of the team.
All of us can grow when we commit to being life long learners. At sportsYou, our team, seeks to implement “coaching best practices” so that our organization can become the best that it can become.
To all the members of the sportsYou team, “You’re good!”
Co-Founder of sportsYou
At sportsYou we are passionate about helping people communicate better. We are excited to announce three new features that will help teams and groups stay in sync.
Whether it’s finding out who can make a scrimmage or to answer the age old question: “Pizza or sandwiches?”, our new polling feature will allow you to build custom polls to answer these and other important questions.
Making sure everyone is on the same page is key. For a team/group coach, knowing who has and has not seen time sensitive information keeps everyone up to date and enables a higher standard of accountability.
Coaches will now be able to see who viewed their posts and chats, to make sure that everyone has the latest information and also what content is resonating with the team/group.
We’re excited to reveal a fresh look for the news feed in the sportsYou mobile apps! We emphasized larger fonts, bolder images, and fantastic looking previews for shared media, links, and files. Now your posts can grab the attention of your team with style!
These and other product enhancements come from our many conversations with the sportsYou community and a dedication to becoming the best team management platform in the marketplace.
We welcome your ideas and feedback at email@example.com. Thank you for being a valued member of our wonderful community. We are excited to serve you! 👏
~The sportsYou Team