Imagine starting a new job that requires constant communication without being able to see the mouths of the people you’re talking to. That’s exactly what Jenn Stevens and Drew Locke are up against as they take over coaching duties at Nauset Regional High School during the masked era of COVID-19.
Stevens and Locke both have past coaching experience, though there’s little that could’ve prepared them for the reality of coaching during a global pandemic.
“With the COVID rules, I feel like a lot of the time I’m spinning around in a circle with my arms out trying to show the kids how far they need to stay apart from everybody,” said Stevens, who will serve as the Warriors’ boys and girls swimming and diving coach this year.
Stevens was tasked with leading Nauset’s swimming and diving program because Justin Bohannon, who led the program for the past several years, opted to take a year off from coaching while teaching remotely.
It’s a welcomed opportunity for Stevens, a former NCAA Division 1 swimmer at UMass Amherst, who also teaches mathematics at Nauset. Her excitement really started to take hold once her oldest son, Travis, 11, recently started his own swimming lessons.
“My oldest son just began swimming this year and he’d come home from his practice and ask me questions,” said Stevens, who also has a 5-year-old daughter, Savannah, a 3-year-old son named Julian and a 1-year-old son named Archie with her husband, Mathew.
“That started getting me really excited about getting back into coaching again. It was kind of my 11-year-old who told me, ‘Oh my gosh, that would be so cool if you became the swim coach’ and that got me excited.”
Before joining Nauset’s faculty as a teacher, Stevens taught math and coached swimming, soccer and track at Natick High School from 2011-2013. Bohannon had asked her to help him out as a coach when she first arrived at Nauset, though back then the timing wasn’t right.
“I’ve been teaching at Nauset for six years and (Bohannon) had asked me to coach during my first year,” Stevens said. “When I first got here, my husband was in the Army and he was stationed away and we had two kids at the time — one newborn — so there was no way I could help coach that first year.”
Although Stevens is still getting acclimated to the COVID-19 protocols, she said she’s enjoyed getting to know the kids she doesn’t teach while also seeing the students she does teach in a different light.
“As a teacher, we just see one side of the kids,” said Stevens. “But now, seeing them as athletes and seeing how inspired they are to meet goals and be there at practice and have some sense of normalcy and socialization — it’s just been an amazing aspect of working with the kids over the past few weeks.”
Like Stevens, Locke is getting the hang of coaching during a pandemic. He took over the Warriors’ boys hockey program after spending the past five seasons as the junior varsity coach. The team got its first taste of action Saturday when it dropped a 3-0 decision to Nantucket in its season opener at Charles Moore Arena in Orleans.
Even in defeat, Locke said, Saturday’s game was a good starting point for the Warriors.
“They really worked hard,” he said. “There’s definitely a lot that we can work on and there’s a lot of stuff that I thought of and should have done differently. It was a huge learning experience for me and I’m already excited about our next week of practice.”
Locke is a Truro native and 2007 graduate of Provincetown High School. He captained the Ptown hockey team — which was a co-op program with Harwich High School at the time — and finished his career with more than 100 total points. In addition to coaching, Locke owns a farm in Truro, where he lives, and also works as the head custodian at Truro Central School.
Because Locke established relationships with many of this year’s Nauset players while they previously played on the JV team he coached, it wasn’t difficult for him to hit the ground running.
“It definitely was a huge help to have known a lot of them,” he said. “The seniors were all on my JV team, so I know all of the kids except for the incoming freshman.”
Still, even if Locke is familiar with the program and many of the players, that familiarity only goes so far when everybody is forced to wear masks.
“One of the biggest hurdles is coaching without them seeing my mouth,” Locke said. “You can only see the eyes, so you really don’t know their reaction or if they’re getting what I’m saying. I can’t tell if they’re really hearing me, even though I’m getting the hang of asking if they are.”
While both Stevens and Locke acknowledged these aren’t ideal conditions for new coaches, both said they’re thrilled to be leading Nauset teams this year.
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org