It is not uncommon to see alumni/ae on campus each day, particularly after school on the playing fields and courts. Many sports, including soccer, basketball, track, wrestling, and cheerleading, as well as Friends' Central Aquatics (FCA), are led by alumni/ae coaches who want to give back to their School community. Friends' Central Athletics has fostered a culture of bringing back alumni/ae to coach student-athletes, including myself, and in this encourage the values and integrity that Friends' Central Athletics expects in all of its student-athletes. What better way to continue this culture of encouraging the highest level of sportsmanship embedded with the values of the FCS Athletic program - values like sportsmanship, leadership, and integrity - than to bring back alums who spent their years as a Friends' Central student surrounded by this culture? In an effort to find out what brings alumni/ae back to campus to coach at FCS, I sought the perspective of six alum coaches.
My first interview was with Ryan Tozer, an FCS graduate from the Class of 2001, who has been the head coach of the Varsity boys' basketball team since the 2012-2013 season. "FCS was a great experience for me on and off the court," said Mr. Tozer. "It is my goal to create this type of experience for current and future boys' basketball players." As a player at FCS, Mr. Tozer was a member of the Varsity boys' basketball team all four years of high school, as well as being team captain, and he is a member of the 1,000 point club, an elite group of alums who scored 1,000 points during their Varsity basketball career at FCS.
For alumna Tanya Johnson Muse '02, Friends' Central is a family affair. The daughter of alumna and Upper School Principal Beth Davis Johnson '77 and sister of alumna Kristen Johnson Reid '03, Ms. Muse is the first graduate of an African-American alum, and the Johnson/Muse family is the first family of color to have three generations at FCS, as her two sons, Omar '26 and Nathan '30 , are current students. Ms. Muse not only coaches the Cheerleading team, but she's also been a teacher in our Lower School for over 10 years. On her time at FCS and why she returned to her alma mater to teach and coach, Ms. Muse shared, "I was the captain of the Varsity Cheerleading team when I was a student. Cheerleading was something I had never done before, but FCS taught me to be brave and to try new things, so that's what I did. I loved every moment. I made many friends, and my coach was a listening ear and support when I needed it. I returned to coach the cheerleading team to give those participating students the same support my coach and FCS gave me. Cheerleading is more than just cheering at games - it's a bond and at times a mentoring group. I enjoy every moment of it and hope to continue giving back."
I talked with another alumni coach, Jacob Fogel, a 2007 graduate of Friends' Central, who has been the coach of the Varsity boys' wrestling team since the 2011-2012 winter season. A dedicated member of the wrestling program, Mr. Fogel was also the former captain of the team, so he knows firsthand what FCS expects from its student-athletes. About why he decided to come back and coach wrestling and what it means to him to coach student-athletes here at FCS, Mr. Fogel shared, "I was interested in helping out in any way that I could right after graduating from college. As I have ultimately continued into a role of running the program, it has been incredible to be a part of the present-day lives of FCS wrestlers while imparting to them the traditions and history that surround the program. When I was a wrestler in high school, I was motivated by the stories I heard from the past, and I now get to tell those stories to a new group to maintain our competitive spirit over generations." As a student, I was privileged to have Mr. Fogel as my Global History teacher for my sophomore year, and several of my classmates that are part of the wrestling team had him as a teacher as well. It is a testament to the FCS community and culture that not only do coaches and teachers like Mr. Fogel help students on the fields and courts but they also are fantastic support systems off the field, ensuring that academics are the number one priority.
Dwight Dunston graduated from Friends' Central in 2006 and came back to work at FCS in the Communications Office in 2011 after college and grad school. He has been one of the track coaches for several years. Mr. Dunston is now Friends' Central's Coordinator of Equity and Justice Education. When I spoke to him, Mr. Dunston shared that he wanted to be part of the sports program at FCS because some of his most memorable moments in high school were related to sports. In addition, some of the greatest role models in his life were his high school coaches. Mr. Dunston shared that he learned so much about collaboration, being a good teammate, and learning to work through adversity. He knew he wanted to coach at FCS because he realized how much it has done for him in a positive way during his high school years, and he wants every student that may not necessarily be a student-athlete after high school to have the positive experience he had. Mr. Dunston also hopes he can be a role model for students like the many Friends' Central coaches and teachers he looks up to and have impacted his life in such a positive manner.
Mike Cook, a Class of 2002 graduate, has been heavily involved with the basketball program since coming back to FCS. Mr. Cook was a tremendous basketball player for the Phoenix and had a great career in high school, as well as in college. Mr. Cook shared that he came to Friends' Central after transferring in from a public school, and he realized that it was a totally different environment. Friends' Central gave so much to him on and off the court, and now working in the Admission Office as well as coaching basketball, Mr. Cook shared that he came back to help in any way he could. He said, "Friends' Central is a special place, and I know how lucky I was to be able to attend there and how lucky I am now to have the opportunity to come back and give back to the School and also the new up-and-coming students." It means a lot to him that he has the opportunity to give back to the school and current students by making Friends' Central a home for them as it was for him. Playing college sports is a scary thing, but coming from someone who has played on the collegiate level at a very high level, Mr. Cook believes he can serve as a voice of guidance for student-athletes at FCS.
My final interview was with Galen Guindon, a 2006 alumnus, and who has been the Varsity boys' soccer coach since the fall of 2012. (He has also also been my coach since I joined the Varsity team as a freshman). About why he decided to come back to FCS, Mr. Guindon shared, "I came back to coach at FCS because of the transformative experience I had as a student-athlete here. My coaches were also my classroom teachers and mentors as I navigated the challenges of high school and even into my early adulthood." During my freshman year, Mr. Guindon was both my Quakerism teacher and my soccer coach at the same time. Ultimately, I believe his dual role as teacher and coach helped our relationship progress because as a freshman coming from a new school, I was quiet and shy being on Varsity and surrounded by all these students I did not know. However, Mr. Guindon saw not only the athlete on the field but he also knew the student off the field in the classroom.
All in all, alumni/ae coaching at Friends' Central speaks to the supportive community FCS has for its student-athletes. Many students have experienced the same situation I did in my freshman year when my coach was also one of my teachers. Coaches at FCS prioritize academics above any practice or game and remain committed to our to our holistic development. Not only are these alumni/ae coaches a support system for us on the field/court/pool, but we also have their support to help us in the classroom and beyond. And, because they know the FCS experience, alum coaches also serve as mentors for so many of us to make high school, especially sports, some of the most special moments of our lives.
-Miles Johnson '19