Changes have taken place in the coaching staff of the golf, tennis and lacrosse teams. Former tennis coach Haitham Batarseh is the new golf coach. Math teacher Patricia Jacobsen has become the tennis coach. And Brooke Wells, head of high school, has quit coaching the lacrosse team, but no replacement has been found yet.
Batarseh, who coached the tennis team for four years, has switched to golf because former coach Greg Kaighn decided to step away from coaching after his son, Garrett, graduated last year.
“Coach Kaighn was a great coach because he was both competitive and laid-back,” junior Jake Sands said. “He taught me how to handle a bad shot during a match.”
Before Kaighn’s tenure, Batarseh assisted athletics director Matt Vargo in coaching the team for three seasons, one in which the team went undefeated.
“That was a great year,” Batarseh said. “I still have the balls that those players gave me with my name printed on them.”
“(Batarseh) has always had a great love for golf and tennis,” Vargo said. “So when (Kaighn) stepped down, it was natural for him to come back over to golf.”
Because golf and tennis weren’t popular in Bethlehem, where Batarseh grew up, after moving to the U.S., Batarseh began playing tennis in college and started golf in his mid-thirties.
Batarseh said that he has taken a few golf lessons, but is primarily self-taught and receives tips from watching lots of pro golf on TV.
“At my house either tennis or golf is on 24/7,” Batarseh said. “Most nights, I’ll fall asleep in front of the TV while watching golf.”
Batarseh said he will begin the season by learning every player’s strengths and weaknesses. He wants to focus on putting and chipping this season because those skills can save players’ strokes.
According to Batarseh, at this level, driving the ball isn’t as important a skill as putting and chipping. And playing in matches is more valuable than hitting at the driving range because the player can get a better feel for games and get used to them.
Sands said the team will benefit from receiving this new input. “He’ll be a great addition,” Sands said.
Jacobsen doesn’t play tennis but will organize rides to practices and matches, and handle uniforms.
Instead of Jacobsen, tennis pros at Rio del Oro, where the team practices in the morning, will give tips to players.
Jacobsen coached the team in 2006, when the team was just beginning. Before that year, only a few kids played on and off, she said.
Vargo asked Jacobsen if she would restart and build up the team, which she then coached for four years. The only time that the team ever went to playoffs was when Jacobsen coached.
She decided to quit the team after her second child was born. Jacobsen said that she has had some qualms about coaching again because she realized that it would be difficult to coach the team while moving into her new house and taking care of her children.
Vargo convinced Jacobsen to coach after agreeing to let her bring her children to practices and to make sure another parent will watch them at matches.
In previous years, there have been problems with players attending few practices. Batarseh said that at some practices last season, only one or two players would show up. Jacobsen said that, in the past, she would pick players who gave their best efforts in practice to play matches.
“If I have two students of the same ability,” Jacobsen said, “I’ll pick the one with more practice time. I generally look for enthusiastic, positive players.”
According to Jacobsen, the team can also improve if players work on maintaining their stamina for long matches by eating well and staying hydrated.
Wells decided to quit after accepting his new role as head of high school.
“I worry that if a situation were to happen on campus while I’m away at a game or at practice, I wouldn’t be able to handle it,” Wells said. “This is my first year as head of high school, so I want to give it my full attention.”
Wells started playing lacrosse as a fifth grader in Philadelphia, where lacrosse was very popular at the time. He continued playing while in college at Haverford and coached along the East Coast and in Sonoma.
Wells began coaching the SCDS lacrosse team four years ago, when it was first founded.
He said that he will miss coaching and playing, but he’ll try to come to practice as much as possible and hopes that he will be able to coach the team in the future. Art teacher Andy Cunningham, who used to assist Wells, will also attend practices and help players.
Previously published in the print edition on Feb. 17, 2015.