Three sport star returns as a coach

Nicole Hebner, a 2000 graduate of Bainbridge High School, has returned to coach the JV girls basketball team, assist the fastpitch team and coach the JV boys golf team at BHS.  - Sean Roach/Staff Photo
Nicole Hebner, a 2000 graduate of Bainbridge High School, has returned to coach the JV girls basketball team, assist the fastpitch team and coach the JV boys golf team at BHS.
— image credit: Sean Roach/Staff Photo

Nicole Hebner enjoys teaching, working with kids in any sport.

When athletes graduate from high school, many players give up their sport they’ve played for most of their lives completely or move to intramurals to focus on other pursuits.

Nicole Hebner wasn’t one to stop playing the sports she loves.

“I’ve always been extremely involved with athletics my whole life,” she said. “It’s been a major part.”

Her constant love of sports has led her back to her alma mater to coach kids in several different sports.

Hebner, a 2000 graduate of Bainbridge High School, is not only the JV girls basketball coach and an assistant with the fastpitch team, but is the new JV boys golf coach.

She also coaches a select volleyball team with her former basketball teammate and best friend Liz McCloskey.

Bob Dwyer, the head coach of the boys team, said Hebner was a natural choice to head up the JV team.

“She was interested and we needed a coach,” he said. “I had seen her coach at the high school and she’s great with the kids.

“She plays a great game of golf and she likes competition, but she’s gentle with the kids,” Dwyer continued. “She’s the right person for the job and we’re lucky to have her.”

The various coaching jobs at BHS wasn’t something that Hebner ever expected to do.

“I always wanted to coach,” she said. “I wanted to take what I’ve learned over the years and transfer that knowledge to the kids.”

“But did I know I would be coaching at Bainbridge? No, I didn’t but I feel privileged to be here. There’s so many opportunities and advantages here.”

Growing up, Hebner always enjoyed being active, playing basketball, volleyball and baseball.

When she started at Bainbridge, she took up volleyball and basketball, but switched to golf instead of continuing on the diamond.

“I was always athletic,” she said. “But when I got into high school I switched to golf... I didn’t know if I would be able to play fastpitch but I wanted to play three sports a year and I just switched to golf.”

Her talent shone through as she could hit the ball a mile – but it wasn’t something she played year-round.

“I always played for fun,” she said. “Even in high school it was just a seasonal sport for me.”

But her natural talent earned her a fifth place finish at the 3A girls golf tournament in her senior year.

Hebner also earned first team All-Olympic League honors in volleyball as a setter and contributed to a team that won the 3A state title in 1999 in basketball as well.

After high school, Hebner continued her golf career at Washington State University, walking on the golf team after showing the coaches what she could do.

“The coaches called me and asked me to come over for a visit,” she said. “I went over and met with the coaches, hit some balls and they asked me to come be on the team.”

But after three years, she gave up the sport to concentrate on her studies, graduating in 2005 with her bachelor’s in health and physical education.

Upon returning to the west side, she began substitute teaching at Central Kitsap Junior High.

Hebner then got the call from her former coach Penny Gienger asking her to fill former teammate Kim Beemer’s spot as the JV girls basketball coach when Beemer left to become a Washington state trooper three weeks before the season started.

“Of course with any new job you’re going to come in not knowing what to expect, (but) we had an unbelievable season,” Hebner said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more with that. It was a great experience.”

After the basketball season, McCloskey, the head coach of the fastpitch team, asked her and some of their friends to help out with tryouts.

She asked Hebner to continue to help out with the team during the season when it didn’t interfere with her teaching schedule.

“She knew that she’d have tons of kids trying out for the team and she knew I was a teacher and I worked with kids,” she said. “I just voluntary helped her. It was a great group of kids and a lot of fun.”

So it was only a matter of time before she took the JV boys golf coaching position as well after talking with Dwyer last winter.

“I said I’d be extremely interested,” she said. “Playing golf again and be part of a sport and working with kids would be great.”

But Hebner said she wasn’t worried about being a woman coach on a men’s team.

“I think at first they were (uncomfortable) about it but once they saw that I could golf that really lowered any doubts that they had,” she said. “Now I have an unbelievable group of boys. We all get along and relate to each other really well.”

Dwyer said he wasn’t worried either.

“They’ve seen her around, they know her brothers and they know the family,” he said. “They’ve taken to her right from day one.”

Hebner, who started as a sub in the Bainbridge school district last week, said she hasn’t thought about a head coaching job just yet.

“Once I get comfortable with coaching then I’ll think about it,” she said. “(But) in the next few years, finding a full-time teaching position is my main concern.”

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