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When players become coaches

Posted: February 1, 2014 10:29 p.m.
Updated: February 1, 2014 10:29 p.m.
Saugus High assistant coach Kayleigh Lau, left, joined the staff this season after playing last year under head coach Kent Eaton, right. Saugus High assistant coach Kayleigh Lau, left, joined the staff this season after playing last year under head coach Kent Eaton, right.
Saugus High assistant coach Kayleigh Lau, left, joined the staff this season after playing last year under head coach Kent Eaton, right.

All old athletes, when their sports days are done, are left to the sidelines.

It appears to be that way for a lot of local young athletes as well — literally.

Across the Santa Clarita Valley, especially with winter sports, young, former Foothill League athletes are coaching.

Head coaches are the most prominent, Shant Bicakci leading the West Ranch boys basketball program six years after graduating from Saugus High is a prime example.

But there are many recent graduates who have returned to their high schools to become assistant coaches — former athletes like Cody Anderson with Canyon boys basketball, Keenan Scalercio with Valencia boys soccer and Kayleigh Lau at Saugus girls basketball.

“I knew I wasn’t going to play college basketball, but I wanted to stay connected to the sport,” Lau said.

Saugus has now had two recent graduates step in as head coach Kent Eaton’s main assistants in consecutive years.

Last season, it was Jordan Oster, who was Lau’s teammate in 2011-12 and then her coach in 2012-13.

Eaton said there were three reasons why he has used former players as assistants — a need for coaches, they were qualified and they asked.

With Oster, he said, she was getting burned out as a senior after a lifetime of playing basketball.

One year after coaching, she resumed her playing career and is now one of College of the Canyons’ top players.

That wasn’t necessarily the effect of having a former player coach for him — getting the desire for the game back — it was more to help the program in a way Eaton couldn’t.

“It gave me an opportunity to think and see the game in different way,” Eaton said. “Having Jordan come back and help me was a lot of fun. Having Kayleigh come back, they see things differently than I do. They relate differently to the girls than I do.”

That’s a universal purpose for having the former players return to the program and contribute.

Valencia boys soccer head coach Tony Scalercio’s son Keenan, who is 22 years old, is the JV soccer coach.

“The kids are lucky to have him because of his experience. He relates well to the kids,” Tony said. “He can still play the game. He plays with the kids. Being a coach and understanding he was there not too long away he knows what that feels like. He’s a player’s coach.”

In Keenan’s case, or in the case of some other young head coaches — such as the Kimble brothers (Brian and Ben) at Hart High — there is a level of responsibility that’s different than the assistant coaches.

With that responsibility, Tony Scalercio acknowledges that some parents might be skeptical of a young coach leading a team.

However, Tony said that is not the case with his parents.

“The parents show Keenan a lot of respect and appreciate him,” Tony said. “He can impart the game to his kids. His kids love him. Parents really love him. You’ll always have a problem parent — one parent where they have issues. But they’re not looking at Keenan like ‘This is a kid who doesn’t know anything.’”

Family is a reason why a lot of these players return to the program — family in another sense.

Canyon High head coach Sean DeLong said he welcomes players back to help in the program because Cowboys basketball preaches that it’s not a team, it’s a family.

“Guys want to come back,” DeLong said of Canyon basketball. “When they come back at alumni games, guys say they want to be back. They bleed Canyon. They’re always following Canyon.”

With Anderson, there’s an advantage.

He became the first SCV boys basketball player to earn a Division I scholarship in 2008 since 1992.

And Anderson’s stint at Montana State gives him knowledge that not a lot of other coaches in the SCV can impart.

“Being a part of a college, it’s hard to turn (him) down,” DeLong said. “He knows his stuff.”

There might be another reason why a lot of these head coaches give these young aspiring coaches a chance.

They were in the same position.

DeLong played for Canyon and graduated from the school in 1995.

During his junior and senior years in high school, Eaton was an assistant coach.

“I’m in the business of teaching kids. If I can give former players a chance to get started, I think that’s the best way to go,” Eaton said.


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