South coaches share secrets of how to lead successful teams


Photo courtesy of Lizzie High

Zaranek believes that creating a positive environment will help a team reach its max potential. Here he is shown encouraging the girls cross country team and making them excited for one of their meets.

Dominic Dulac, Web Section Editor

South’s athletic program has a diverse group of coaches who are critical to the success of its teams.

However, coaching high school sports is about more than just bossing around student athletes during competitions. According to girls cross country and track coach Steve Zaranek, it takes total commitment to one’s sport to foster a successful program.

“At the very beginning, some coaches may not experience a lot of success in the win column, but if they stick to it with the commitment, they’re going to develop a team that really wants to improve,” Zaranek said. “When things start coming together in that regard, good things will happen.”

Zaranek, who has been coaching the girls’ running program for 38 years, believes that solely focusing on winning is not the job of the coach. According to him, he makes it his duty to create a positive environment that is conducive to the growth of his runners.

“We really try to create an atmosphere that is positive and successful every day. The atmosphere, to me, creates the opportunity to be extremely successful,” Zaranek said. “I’m really focused on making sure that when I show up to a practice or a competition, that the atmosphere is positive, and everyone feels eager, feels supportive, and feels ready-to-go to do their best.”

Zaranek doesn’t believe that his coaching methodology is unique at all. In fact, boys varsity lacrosse coach Justin Macksoud, who is only coming into his first year of being a head coach this spring, also shoots to give his team an encouraging atmosphere that helps advance all of his athletes.

“I think that you have to be able to see both sides of the equation,” Macksoud said. “You have so many different personalities. Not everybody is here just to make it to the next level. Everybody has to be able to play, and everybody has to have fun, and you have to make things fun.”

Another way that these two coaches mentor their teams similarly is through their temperaments. Both understand that an even temper is characteristic of an effective coaching style.

“If I need to tell them something they did wrong… it’s never a yelling,” Macksoud said. “You never talk down, no matter who the kid is, whether they can take it or not.”

No matter what, both of these coaches said they are excited that they are able to coach high school students in their respective sports.

“I learned that coaching girls at the high school level is extremely rewarding because of the bonding that takes place, the understanding of commitment, and understanding what my role was in that whole process,” Zaranek said. “And so I never looked back because I thoroughly enjoyed it so much.”

Both coaches also have acquired the respect of the students in their sports. Lizzie High ’20 has run cross country for Zaranek since her freshman year. She recognizes that he is a highly valued member of the team.

“I think that he is so caring and attentive to every single person on the team. He knows everyone’s name by the first week,” High said. “He knows everyone’s strengths, everyone’s weaknesses, and he knows how to inspire the whole team.”

Calvin Stricker ’20 is a competitor in Macksoud’s lacrosse program. According to Stricker, Macksoud’s ability to zone in during games is as helpful as his inspiring attitude is off the field.

“He gets to know each of his players; that really helps them keep playing lacrosse. It helps them get a better bond with the coach so they listen to him more,” Stricker said. “But when it comes down to game time, he’s very serious and lets you know what he’s doing, so we can win more games.”

One thing that helps Macksoud and Zaranek stay enthusiastic is their lifelong passions for sports. According to High, Zaranek’s is infectious and has spread to her. His ideas have inspired her as both an athlete and a person.

“I think that the work ethic that he’s taught me is huge,” High said. “There’s one rule on the team that is shared by everyone: you don’t walk. When you start a run, you know that you’re going to run the whole time and that you’re going to finish it. And that’s just a mentality that has become a part of my daily life. If I get into something, I’m going to do it. And the whole team just runs by that idea, that when we start something, we are going to finish it.”