By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Brindi Kandel had stepped away from her position as Riverside girls basketball coach and was in the process of deciding what her next step would be. Then the perfect situation dropped into her lap.
Kandel is the new coach at Perry.
“It was the right opportunity at the right time,” she said. “I had already resigned from Riverside and Perry had teaching position open and a coaching position open. They have a four-person (coaching) staff instead of a two-person staff. That really helps balance the coaching responsibilities.
“At Perry, there are more coaches and more gyms. We can have a more flexible practice schedule.”
Moving to Perry from Riverside, Kandel, 28, is sliding into a smaller community, one that is extremely supportive of its athletes. She’s excited to be a part of that.
“I come from a smaller school where the community was behind all the sports,” Kandel said. “I know what it’s like to play in that atmosphere and to coach in that atmosphere. Everyone is so nice and helpful and supportive. I’m extremely excited to get the season started and take advantage of the support I’ve already had since I’ve been here.”
Perry has long been one of the schools with great facilities in the area. Kandel is happy to take advantage of them.
“The facilities are phenomenal,” Kandel said. “For someone who has grown up in gyms her whole life, it’s a coach’s dream. They’re the best in the area, in my opinion. Every time I walk in, it’s just... wow.”
Spectator Gymnasium is part of those facilities, and when the seats are full, it can be an extreme advantage to play games there. Kandel would like nothing more than to use that to the Pirates’ advantage.
“I hope to make that a huge advantage,” Kandel said. “I want to build the program from the third graders up through the seniors. I want the community, the parents and the students involved. Getting people in the seats and drawing a crowd in is to our advantage in the closer games.”
With several coaches in the district who are known to help anybody who needs it, including football coach Matt Rosati, Kandel, as a young coach will have the opportunity to learn and grow in the profession.
“From the standpoint of a coach who is looking to learn and get better, being in a position where so many coaches are willing to let you pick their brain, I will use that. It doesn’t matter the sport, I’ll take what their willing to give, use it, then go back and get more from them.
“I met Chad Frazier, who has a basketball background. Rosati spoke at the Force Fundamental Camp here at Perry this summer and he’s one of those guys you know you can learn from. For me, it’s very exciting to have those types of people as mentors or even role models.”
Kandel was already somewhat familiar with the players she has inherited at Perry from having played the Pirates whil with the Beavers. Though she doesn’t quite yet know them well, she does know they will fit her system quite well.
“They fit perfectly,” Kandel said. “Coach (Mike) Decker (the previous Perry girls coach) did a good job putting in some full-court defenses and some offenses that will allow the girls to run. We’re not big big, but we’re quick. The soccer players bring toughness and good foot speed. The volleyball players bring a toughness and they have good movement.”
The Pirates have experienced some success, not only in basketball, the last several years and that will help Kandel in her endeavor.
“I don’t know that that will make it easier, but it will make it different,” Kandel said. “The focus will be different. The girls are still a little young as far as varsity experience. It will be a challenge from that respect. I don’t have to create a culture of winning, it’s already there. That’s one less thing I have to focus on and I can shift that focus elsewhere.
“We can set the goals higher because of what was established before me.”
The success Perry enjoys not only athletically, but also academically, is enticing for Kandel.
“I’m a firm believer in a school-wide system of success,” she said. “Each academic success leads to one after. Perry has set the bar high for it’s students. The players have learned to reach for high expectations. They expect themselves to reach those expectations. There’s a copmplete culture of winning and success throughout the entire district.”
Listening to Kandel talk, you’d believe she is ready to start the season in the next week, rather than than in several months.
“Part of me wishes it could start next week,” she said. “The other part of me is more realistic that we need the rest of the summer to work develop some individual skills a bit more. I would be happy if we started next week.
“The energetic part of me says, ‘Let’s go do this now. I feel like I hit the basketball lottery.”
Kandel will also teach at Perry, staying in a familiar role.
“I’m still in special ed, just like I was at Riverside,” she said. “I will be at the high school level with possibly one middle school class.”
Being inside the school as a new coach will be an advantage for Kandel.
“I believe that is important, especially being my first year,” Kandel said. “I want to be around as much as possible. It helps to build support in the school with the other students, it helps us get the word out about games. It creates a huge advantage.
“It also helps me stay connected with the kids, and to me that’s the most important part.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.