By Alyssa J. Vera
Kevin Foley, head coach of the women’s basketball team at Suffolk Ammerman, diligently answered phone calls before sitting down to speak about his passion for the game on
Wednesday, Apr. 22 in the Brookhaven Gymnasium’s Athletics Office. “I played sports all throughout high school and college but I had no intention of coaching,” Foley said. It was not until the year 1974 that his love for the game was ignited by a family friend who “forcefully but in a friendly way” said that Foley owed something to the game. “After playing for so many years, he persuaded me that it was my responsibility to give back. 1974 was the year he offered me my first coaching job,” Foley said.
Foley has had the privilege of coaching camps, clinics, and summer leagues, and proudly claims to have been coaching the women of Suffolk Ammerman for 21 years. These years of experience have benefited athletes like former basketball captain Rynese Smith, who says Foley’s experience and knowledge makes it much easier to play the sport. “He teaches you so much about the game. I feel like I already know so much more about it than I already did,” Smith said.
The same way that Foley has expanded the knowledge of team members like Smith, so have they helped him learn more about his position as a coach. “As a coach, you are constantly being taught,” he said. “You’re always constantly looking to improve yourself and you’re always developing because each year presents new challenges,” Foley said.
New challenges were faced this year when the team suffered a loss by one point in the first game of the season. “He wasn’t too happy about that,” Smith said chuckling. The team also experienced disappointment when they came in second place at Regionals against Rockland Community College with a score of 17 and 7. However, Foley still managed to be optimistic about it all. “Even though we were beat by a better team, we still achieved what we thought we couldn’t,”Foley said.
After a loss, Foley makes sure to improve the weaknesses of each player to guarantee a successful game the next time around. “Sometimes that means quietly talking to people one-on-one,” Foley said.
Liberal Arts Major Marta Czaplak, 20, has experienced these one-on-one pep talks with Foley during her faulty times at practice. “He really does walk you through whatever you need to improve on,” Czaplak, 20, said. “If I shoot the ball and miss, I completely stop playing the game, but Coach Foley told me to keep shooting to get my confidence up. His advice has made me a better player,” she said.
Smith also admits to enduring weaknesses of her own last season, but says that Foley has pushed her to reach what she was most capable of. “He’ll let you know what you’re good at. He’s going to tell you, ‘I know you’re capable of this, so you need to go out and do this,’” Smith said.
Smith’s leadership skills were blemished but have improved as a result of Foley’s personal conversations with her. “He’s pushed me to become a leader in a positive way instead of being a Debby Downer or falling into a negative mindset,” she said. “Just trying to keep everybody on the same page was probably the toughest thing and he helped me be that leader,” Smith said.
“It’s about the energy that these girls bring to things,” Foley said. “If they’re going to play the game, they need to play it with high energy and not waste their time. I’ve always said, if your energy and enthusiasm levels are low, you’re not living; you’re existing,” Foley said.
Foley’s specific rules and expectations are often questionable according to Senior Captain Meagan O’Connell. “He is so peculiar about every little detail and sometimes you just scratch your head and ask yourself why,” she said. “But then when you play the game, you understand why he says the things he does,” O’Connell said.
The relationships Foley has established over the years have never left him. In fact, he doesn’t consider this a program but a family. Foley has seen the impact he’s left on a lot of alumni who return to the college to become assistant coaches.
“I push them because I want to see them achieve and move on. I want them to look at what they’ve done and feel like they did their best,” Foley said. “That is the most rewarding thing to me,” he said.