Alumni coaches continue traditions, build stronger OP family

“Alright, split up baselines.”

The conditioning head womens basketball coach Joe McKinstry calls to the team are not all that different from what his coach said to him in 1999. Alumni involvement is a large part of the Oak Park family atmosphere. It is especially present through the athletic department with nine coaches who graduated as Northmen.

“Whether they’ve been out a year, two years, or 20 years when they come back, it feels the same but better,” said activities director Chad Valadez.

Alumni as coaches run the program more with the tradition and values of Oak Park …”

— sophomore Allie Vanderbeek

By having a graduate as a coach, the program may gain more help from the community. According to Valadez, the impact of people already knowing the coach from their time as a player helps when it comes to fundraising or even just community morale and attitude toward the program. Plus, the added pride an alum coach holds can be a huge positive for the program.

“The lessons they taught me and what they instilled in me, I wanted to be able to give back and do the same thing for the girls that are going through the program,” assistant womens soccer coach Sarah Lorenson. “I can’t honestly picture myself anywhere else.”

Lessons like staying mentally tough through wins and losses and keeping a strong work ethic are handed down.

“She always really promoted like, positive interactions with your opponent,” said assistant womens tennis coach Haley Cope about head womens tennis coach Tana Stock.

This lesson traveled from Stock to Cope as a player on the tennis team. Now, as one of the coaches, Cope makes a point to also advocate for the good sportsmanship long demonstrated in the tennis program.

“I coached under Tana, and she was a coach I had, so everything I know about tennis and the experience is through her,” said Cope.

Though there are many positives for having an alum as a coach, the fewer outside perspectives a coach may have gained may limit the ideas that coach has in his or her “playbook.”

“I do think my scope is limited in some areas,” Cope added, “but I think the positives outweigh the negatives.”

The passion and work ethic a coach demonstrates leaves long term effects on the players. As time progresses those lessons are implemented into all aspects of their lives, and as a coach will be taught to the next generation of players, keeping school tradition alive.

“Alumni as coaches run the program more with the tradition and values of Oak Park more than someone coming from an outside point of view,” said triple-sport student-athlete sophomore Allie Vanderbeek.