As McNicholas enters the spring sports season, the athletic department has welcomed three new head coaches: Michaela Hyden for Women’s Varsity Soccer, Jake Oester (‘05) for Varsity Baseball, and Bill Valenzano for Track and Field.
Q: What previous experience have you had with the sport you are coaching?
Oester: “I began coaching [baseball] in 2014 [at] the University of Toledo. I have also coached at Alderson Broaddus University (Philippi, WV), and Urbana University.”
Hyden: “I played high school soccer at Campbell County [High School] and played college soccer at University of Pikeville. I have also coached at Pikeville High School and within the club community, Alliance Cincinnati and Kings Hammer.”
Valenzano: “I was an assistant track coach at McNicholas, working with the distance runners, from 2000-2008. After leaving McNicholas in 2008 I became the Boys Head Track & Field coach at Walnut Hills from 2009-2015. I returned to [coaching] track at McNick in 2018.”
Q: What are you most looking forward to/excited about as you begin coaching at McNick?
Oester: “I am most excited about the great atmosphere around the campus. I have really enjoyed getting to know each of the athletes so far.”
Hyden: “I am excited to continue to build relationships with the McNick community and the athletes. I am also excited to start the season and start competing with the girls. We have a fun year ahead of us!”
Valenzano: “Since Track & Field (and all spring sports) were cancelled last year due to the pandemic, I’m looking forward to resuming competition again. As much as I enjoy Cross Country in the fall, I really like the precision of the track.”
Q: What stuck out about McNick to make you want to become a head coach?
Oester:“It was [a] really easy decision for me because I have so many great memories from McNick from my experience at the school as a student. The facilities and athletic programs have been greatly upgraded, and the baseball program specifically has so much potential.”
Hyden: “I have worked with the men’s soccer program the last two years as the assistant and have enjoyed every aspect of it. When the girls position opened up I believed I had the right energy and determination to bring the girls team to the next level. I have always wanted to have my own program and I couldn’t think of a better place to be coaching.”
Valenzano: “In addition to coaching here several years ago I taught Health and P.E. here from 1998 until the spring of 2007. Also, my daughter, her husband and my son are [all] McNick graduates. My Catholic faith and prayer are two very important parts of my life, so when I had the opportunity to return to coaching at McNick, I jumped at it.”
Q: What has made McNick a great place for you to work and makes you feel comfortable to put so much of your time into coaching every day?
Oester:“It really feels like an inviting and open environment. I truly look forward to getting to the campus each day.”
Hyden: “The athletes make every part about coaching worth my while. Every time we have a practice, I see them push themselves to get better. When athletes do that it makes me as a coach want to be better. They motivate me to bring everything I have to each session. I also love the community and other coaches I work with.”
Valenzano: “As I previously mentioned, my faith is a big part of my life. Coaching at Walnut Hills was a great opportunity to gain more experience but I wasn’t permitted to have ‘prayer huddles’ before meets or to bring prayer into coaching. Now, I get to do those things again at McNicholas.”
Q: What have you found difficult, if anything going into your head coaching position?
Oester:“Dealing with the Ohio weather! Honestly, as far as things I can control, there is nothing difficult about the position. I have enjoyed being on the McNick campus each and every day.”
Hyden: “The most difficult thing is to remember the process is slow. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and you have to build a foundation before you can implement different things. Simple is best and once you have mastered simple you can move on to more complex things. I am always telling my team it is all in the little details as a reminder that the foundation of where we begin will never go away.”
Valenzano: “I was interviewed and then hired as head coach in mid-January so it’s been a small challenge to put together a staff of assistant coaches. I’m very thankful to Coach Spurlock, our hurdles/sprint coach for returning to coach those areas. I’ve called on McNick’s assistant Cross Country coach, Emily Gilbert (math teacher at St. Columban) to help with the distance program. I also recently called a former member of the Track & Field coaching staff whom I worked with from 2000-2008 (and member of the McNick athletic hall of fame), Cynthia Grundy, to help Coach Spurlock with sprints, hurdles and jumps. I’m currently waiting to hear back from another coach to work with our shot put and discus throwers.”
Q: What do you carry as a coach that you hope to give to your players as they continue to grow as an athlete, student and a person?
Oester: “I hope the players realize how fortunate they are to have the opportunity to wear the McNick uniform. I want them to be proud to represent the McNick community both on and off the baseball field! I also hope the students can build off of my positive attitude.”
Hyden: “A quality I have that I hope to pass along to my athletes is my passion for helping others and my passion for the game.”
Valenzano: “I’ve coached for 22 previous seasons. I find that athletes in these sports are internally motivated and driven, both athletically and academically, so they’re very high achievers. I try to instill in those that I coach that running is something you can do for the rest of your life.”
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add or say to the McNick community?
Oester:“After about 16 years away, it is great to be back on campus. I hope to see everyone out at Paradise once the season starts up! GO ROCKETS!”
Valenzano: “Thank you for the support you’ve offered, it is wonderful to be back at Rocket High!”