New coach Josh Schaan committed to good tennis and life skills

New MVRHS boys tennis coach Josh Schaan at Monday's practice. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Looks like we got a two-fer with Josh Schaan.

The brand-new boys tennis coach at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School has a commitment to good tennis and to coaching life skills that will remain in play for the years after the tennis skills have eroded.

Mr. Schaan played a lot of tennis growing up in Seattle, Wash. He played winning college tennis at The University of Mary in Bismarck, N. D., and has coached winning tennis at junior and high school levels.

He graduated in 2006 with a degree in theology and has worked with Catholic youth ministries in Seattle and in North Dakota. He came to the Island last August to work in Catholic youth ministry here with Reverend Michael Nagle at Good Shepherd parish. The parish includes three churches in its ministry, Our Lady Star of the Sea in Oak Bluffs, St. Augustine’s Church in Vineyard Haven. Summer services are offered at Good Shepherd Church in Edgartown.

In an interview last week with the Times, Mr. Schaan showed up as an open, centered, and friendly man. As he tells it, he knew early that he had a calling for church-based youth ministry work and he knew he loved tennis. He didn’t know he was good at it.

“I played a lot of tennis, but I didn’t play for my high school in Seattle. I was playing recreationally one day at college and was approached to try out for the team. I didn’t know where my talent level lay, but I made the team. Scholarship? Well, let’s just say it was minimal, but I played three years. We went to the regional finals one year in Chicago and I played  number two singles, and number one doubles in senior year.

“Playing doubles was my real goal,” he said. “Doubles tennis adds a dynamic to the game, and there’s more opportunity for strategy and teamwork. I’ve always liked the idea of teamwork. I was the middle kid in a family of five, and we learned the importance of working together and relying on each other.”

Mr. Schaan has connected the dots between coaching tennis and youth ministry. “The youth minister at my church always said that young people are important and that stayed in my head,” he said. “I thought about studying law and business, but youth ministry was always there.

Mr. Schaan has eight years of work in Catholic church youth ministries and has good chops in coaching tennis. His first job was in a Catholic youth ministry in Whitefish, Mont., where he coached the tennis team to a couple of state and team titles. “We had two singles champs and one doubles championship,” he said.

Mr. Schaan believes in volunteerism. “That’s what got me involved as a kid. It’s not new here. Kids worked in soup kitchens and shelters off-Island last year.” Mr. Schaan said enrollment for a Catholic camp summer program in Georgia has attracted 23 signups this year, about double a year ago.  

“My style is to be more of a leader by example — you know, when you hold a door or say hello to someone, try to live your life in a way that might cause people to ask: ‘What’s his motivation?’

“I’m not a street corner preacher. The defining element is that my perspective originates from a spiritual center. I’ve been given a gift of faith. Life is a gift: what can I do to share, and more importantly, to preserve that gift? Hopefully to leave the world a better place than I found it.

“Life perspective helps as a coach. There is extremism in anything and extreme coaching is a problem generally for kids. These are high school kids with a lot going on in their lives. I hear them, I did it too. I know kids can blow things out of proportion, but these are formative years for work habits, social skills, life habits. They need time for those other things and to learn how to balance those things.

“Coaching includes helping young people to live a well-rounded life. Don’t get me wrong. I’m the most competitive person out there. I don’t like to lose. This team hasn’t done a lot of that lately, though they do lose to each other in practice. You have to win as graciously as you lose. Hopefully that translates off the court.”

Mr. Schaan knows he’s succeeding a well-regarded coach with back-to-back state championship teams. “This is kind of a fun thing to come into,” he said. “I know people will pay attention to the transition. Ned and I talk. We share common philosophy and he’s not a yeller. Neither am I, stern but not a yeller. Ned is Ned and I am who I am. We are a young team with six freshman. Good talent. I haven’t seen the level of play in Massachusetts so I’m curious to see how the next few years develop.”

Love those two-fers.