HARWICH - Bill O'Connell doesn't mind doing double duty. Though already head football coach at St. John Paul II High School in Hyannis, he recently signed on to become the new head basketball coach for Monomoy girls varsity basketball and is looking forward to leading the Sharks into a strong future.
“It's a great school,” he said of Monomoy. “I've seen them play, having coached on the Cape. Some of the people I've talked to said it would be a great opportunity for the program.”
O'Connell is no stranger to the high school sports realm both on and off the Cape, having previously coached football at Sandwich, and lacrosse at Upper Cape Tech. He's also coached at Apponequet and Coyle and Cassidy, and currently teaches physical education and health at Sandwich High.
“I've coached girls sports in the past and had a lot of luck with it, so I figured this would be a great opportunity,” O'Connell said.
O'Connell's foray into sports in general began when he was worked as an athletic director for a summer camp. At the end of the summer season, several fellow camp employees encouraged him to start substitute teaching at their respective schools. That encouragement was motivation enough for O'Connell to pursue a teaching career in physical education and health.
High school sports, O'Connell said, are ideal as student athletes have a foundation to expand upon.
“I think they're kind of in between middle school where they don't have a base, and college kids with too much of a base,” O'Connell said, adding that he's looking to tap into his phys ed background with the Sharks, building in strength and conditioning and working toward establishing the youth programs to serve as strong feeder programs for the high school teams.
While the concept of starting a new coaching gig in the middle of a pandemic might put others off, O'Connell is taking it in stride.
“For me, I don't think it'll be too much of a change,” he said. “I've been doing high school strength and conditioning sessions from June on where we've had a strict mask mandate, social distancing, and hybrid learning four days a week. I guess all the rules behind the pandemic are second nature to me. I've already coached a full season in the pandemic as well.”
Most recently he conducted outdoor strength and conditioning sessions with student athletes at SJP2, took part with football players in weekly 7-on-7 under strict pandemic protocols, and will continue to hold strength and conditioning sessions with the Lions until football begins in late February or early March.
“With basketball practices being later in the afternoon or early evening and having great assistant football coaches who are capable of running these sessions autonomously when needed, it will not be a problem to juggle the two,” O'Connell said of his dual coaching jobs.
Monomoy Athletic Director Karen Guillemette said in a press release that O'Connell's experience was impressive.
“We were impressed with Coach O'Connell's preparation and vision for the future of our girls' basketball program,” she wrote. “Coach O'Connell's wide range of experience and his dedication to high school athletics put him over the top. We look forward to many successes for our girls' basketball program in the future under Coach O'Connell's guidance.”
Recently, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) voted to move the start of winter sports to Dec. 14 due to an upswing in COVID-19 numbers across the state and the U.S., which means that official games won't likely happen until after the holiday break, which takes place from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1.
O'Connell is simply excited to get started, encouraging former and new players to give basketball a try.
“I think it's going to be a good environment for boys and girls basketball over there,” he said. “They're invested in working as one program. I think it's going to be a really healthy environment for any student athlete to play, especially girls who haven't played before. Girls that play field hockey, soccer, track, it would be really good for them to come in and jive with the style of play we're looking to put in.”