by Nick Delahanty, Felician College Public Relations Intern
For Felician College's head women's basketball coach Steve Fagan of Howell, winning basketball games is only part of what he hopes to get out of the student-athletes that he works with daily.
The sixth-year head coach and Staten Island native strives to show his players the importance of the NCAA Division II tenet of "balance." Within this concept, D-II schools are emphasizing the importance of academic excellence, athletics achievement and community engagement, thus helping to lead a student towards her own total personal development.
"The main thing is to make sure that the student comes first, with the athlete second," said Fagan. "Preparing the student athletes for life is the big picture."
Fagan teaches his players that although winning basketball games is important, it also is crucial for them to be successful in other aspects in life as well. He encourages them to work hard in school and in other parts of their daily lives, so once they graduate or finish their basketball careers, they will ultimately be better people.
"Not having balance throughout our lives is almost like expecting to win a basketball game without scoring or acing a test without studying," said Ashley Morris (West Orange, N.J./West Orange), a junior forward who has become a vital part of Fagan's rotation. "Coach Fagan always tries to help us understand how important it is to maintain a balanced lifestyle -- to keep stability in the classroom, in our personal lives, and on the court for us to be successful young women."
Fagan tries to set an example by working toward balance in his own life. The importance of family, both on and off the basketball court, is important for him. He says he was taught at a young age that family should be a focal point of his life, so he applies that idea to his team to help create a special bond for these young athletes.
"Coach looks at our team as a family, and tries to make us learn the idea of a family on and off the court through extra activities such as team lunches and other group events," said Trina Plummer (West Babylon, N.Y./North Babylon), a senior forward and tri-captain of Fagan's team. "He wants us to understand that you never turn your back on your family, and in order to be successful we must leave our selfishness outside and understand we are family regardless of what happens on the court."
Fagan has a special connection to his family through his job as a basketball coach. His two stepchildren, Nathaniel Gonel and Natasha Gonel, serve as team managers, assisting Fagan with every aspect of the team. Nathaniel is a sophomore at Felician, and Natasha a freshman.
"It's very important to me to be able to have my family around as much as possible and also have my stepchildren involved in the team," added Fagan. "I value their opinion about the wins, losses, practices, as well as what we need to improve on. They are always around and contribute to our daily process."
Even with having Nathaniel and Natasha on the court with him during the season, Fagan also gets some support in the crowd. His wife Larissa attends the games to support her husband along with their two youngest children, Patrick and Mark. Through a long season that can be filled with road trips, late nights working, and also a lot of ups and downs, Fagan realizes the importance his wife plays in their everyday life.
"She is the rock of our family," said Fagan of his wife. "Not only is she the main reason why the household things get done, but also keeps our four kids together and focused on what they have to do."
As the team battles for a spot in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) playoffs, Fagan and his team understand the importance of having family in order to help get through the ups and downs that come with a long and grueling season.
"Sports teach daily lessons in life, and it's important to be able to share it with your family, whether good or bad," Fagan added. "We love when our student athletes' families are committed to coming to games and really cheering for the whole team; family atmosphere is definitely the most important thing to us."