Lighting the Lamp: Coaches at Park

in Spring 2024 by

It’s 5:45 a.m. when Jim O’Keefe ‘91 pulls out of his driveway. He’s en route to coach Varsity Ice Hockey practice and is in high spirits despite the early hour and frigid temperature.

“Some of my favorite childhood memories are from when I was an athlete at The Park School,” says Jim. “I want to pass along those experiences to the student athletes who are in the same places where I once felt so much joy. Some of my coaches saw things in me that I didn’t see myself, and they pushed me to do things that I didn’t think were possible.”

“Being back on the field in a different role is rewarding,” says Amy Saltonstall, Upper Division Math teacher, Varsity Field Hockey, and Varsity Lacrosse coach. Athletic games sometimes mean Amy’s workday ends after dark, but it’s a time-commitment she makes with her whole heart. “I love the team’s tradition of running around the outside of the field and high-fiving all the fans after home games. I love that I get to see the students beyond who they are in the classroom — sports allows them to shine in different ways and to feel a sense of belonging that they don’t always get in the academic arenas.”

The Park School designed its athletic and intramural program intentionally to create opportunities for students to develop skills through sports-specific activities, team experiences, and competition. The adults that step up to coach are the real VIP. Without an ample pool of folks willing to step into the coaching role, team size increases, participation time decreases, and the student experience is diluted and potentially frustrating.

“Whenever possible, Park’s coaches are members of our faculty and staff,” says Carl Geneus, Athletics Director. “It is important for our coaches to know and understand both the school’s philosophy and culture as well as its students. It’s also important for students to see and know their teachers in environments other than the classroom.”

“I love getting to know my students and their families in a different way,” says Lauren Dennis, Upper Division English teacher, Varsity Soccer, and Varsity Basketball coach. “I feel a closeness with the Park community when I talk to families after a game and cheer next to parents on the sidelines.”

“I’d like to think the coach’s love of the game and sports can be contagious enough to make the students want to participate as much as possible and give it their all,” says Mina Roustaei, School Receptionist, Varsity Volleyball, JV Volleyball, and Grade 5 Basketball coach.

Merrill Hawkins, Upper Division English and Social Studies teacher, Soccer, Ice Hockey, and Girls on the Run coach, still thinks about her coaches from when she, herself, was a student at Park  “Especially those who were also my teachers,” Merrill says. “They made such an important impact in my education.” 

Many of Park’s coaches are approached as new teachers or staff and asked to consider leading a sports team as a way to connect with the community. Others seek out coaching opportunities in homage to their own childhood sports mentors. Still others are passionate about nurturing the physically-active part of whole child development.

“Teamwork, resilience, and how they treat their peers and adults are all things we work on. I want to help athletes grow both on and off the field,” says Manny Duarte Perlovsky, Lower Division assistant teacher, Ultimate Frisbee, JV Soccer, Varsity Basketball, and Track and Field coach. 

Sarah McCullough, Permanent Substitute teacher, Varsity Soccer, Varsity Basketball, and Track and Field coach, agrees: “Sports and athletic teams provide so many lessons — self-reflection, practicing collaboration, showing respect, building confidence, making compromises, showing responsibility… It may not feel as intentional as in the classroom or explicitly stated as often but our players are building these skills everyday. I love being a coach.” 

Thank you to all of our staff and faculty coaches!