Back to the Pack: Return of the alumni

DRILLING+IT+INTO+MEMORY%3A+Girls+JV+basketball+head+coach+Erin+Halle+%28left%29+assigns+the+girls+different+numbered+positions+while+teaching+them+how+to+execute+an+offensive+drill.+

Adrian Chen

DRILLING IT INTO MEMORY: Girls JV basketball head coach Erin Halle (left) assigns the girls different numbered positions while teaching them how to execute an offensive drill.

Rachel Yokota, Staff Writer

From student athlete to graduate to coach, a handful of alumni from Northwood’s 19 graduating classes have come back to the school as coaches for student athletics. 

Alumni coaches work in various aspects of Northwood athletics, both as coaches and assistant coaches, and in a variety of sports including soccer, basketball, swim, cross country and water polo. 

Girls soccer coach Harry Lee, a 2011 alumnus, began coaching at Northwood this year.

“When a bunch of people asked me to coach, I said why not?” Lee said. “I played soccer here at Northwood too, and I missed playing, so this was my way of being active and being a part of the school.”

Lee, along with many of the alumni coaches, is also a teacher on campus, making contributions both in the classroom and on the field. 

The unique position of teacher, alumni and coach at their alma mater brings opportunity to understand students on a deeper level and pay their positive experiences forward to the next generation of athletes.  

“When I coach, I can connect with my students and learn about who they are outside of school,” swim and cross country coach Shiela Shaikh, class of 2011, said. “Being in sports and having a connection with my coach and friends was a huge part of my high school experience, so this is how I give back to the program.”

The youngest alumna coach on campus, Erin Halle, who graduated in 2021, returned this winter season as head coach of the girls JV basketball team. 

Halle was a starter for the varsity girls basketball team only last winter.

“At first, it was strange coming to Northwood as a coach rather than a student or player, but after a while, I got the hang of it,” Halle said. “As I’m learning with my players, our dynamic differs slightly from the typical coach and player relationship, but their patience and hard work has made coaching them much easier.”

 Student-athletes have had positive experiences with younger coaches and appreciate their relatability and sense of understanding. 

This is particularly clear in teams like boys and girls water polo, which have three coaches who all attended Northwood: Class of 2010 Kyle Kim-E, Class of 2012 Isabelle Comtois and Class of 2016 Maddie Choi.

“Our coaches being young is good,” freshman Harry Dang said. “Things don’t feel so serious because they’re younger, but still I know they have a lot of experience in the game.”

Alumni coaches also have an invaluable asset that other coaches lack: fresh memories of what high school is like for Northwood students.

“It’s helpful to have the experience of being a student athlete at Northwood because it gives me a better understanding of what my players need from me,” Halle said.

Understanding student perspectives helps bridge the gap between players and coaches, which is a part of why alumni coaches are so loved by the athletes. 

Their experience as a student not only helps them advise new athletes on various aspects of the game, but also provides a unique understanding of the Northwood experience their athletes are currently immersed in, contributing to their success.