Welcoming New Sports Coaches

The players kneel as Coach Matt Toblin wraps up practice.
Gorman smiles next to our Bulldog mascot.
Coach Kirsch instructs members of crew while on the water.
Photo Credit: Conny Kirsch
Coach Christie smiles at the camera. 
Coach Peter smiles and leans against the wall of the names of Bolles Olympic Swimmers.

Five new or promoted sports coaches at the Bolles School strive for excellence within their sports. With every coach, we learn that they do not only coach these sports, but the values that come with them. Respect, independence, and teamwork pull all of these sports together. As a team, all of the players emulate these values together. Through losses and wins, the team is not separated nor rid of these values. It is always more than the wins and losses, but the people who you win and lose with.

Coach Peter Verhoef 
Although swimming is a sport largely focused on competitions within the year, the main idea that Verhoef wants to get across to his swimmers is that swimming can bring people together and create lifelong friendships as it did for him when he was a swimmer.

Verhoef, Bolles’ new head swim coach as of January 2019, is welcomed to Bolles after coaching 11 Olympic athletes, including Ryan Lochte, Davis Tarwater, who won gold in the Olympics in England, and Jimmy Feigen who won a gold medal for the 400-meter freestyle.

With his three phases of achievement: “Do the Work,” “Team Relationship,” and “Character and Habits” he hopes to continue the legacy of Bolles winning the National Swim Championships. Verhoef thinks swimming, a “sport built on competition,” uses Bolles standards. “We try to take our Bolles standards and bring it to that club environment.”

Verhoef went to Warwick High School in Newport, West Virginia where swimming was overshadowed by football as well as other sports. He says, “Swimming wasn’t a big thing [in my high school], nobody knew we had a team, we just did our thing, but the kids I knew in my club team are my best friends… I want to create that environment with swimming; I want them to create friends that will last a lifetime”

 “You don’t remember your swim, you remember the people around you” Coach Peter Verhoef

His favorite memories of swimming were at this high school. He says he still remembers his dad cheering for him after he made his first Olympic Trial standard. He says, “You don’t remember your swim, you remember the people around you.”

Jack Bauerle, the swim coach for the University of Georgia. was his most memorable coach. He says Bauerle focused on trying to fix problems and build values through his coaching. “He was more concerned with who were as people rather than swimmers.”

He is honored to be coaching for Bolles. He states, “You just have to look around and pinch yourself and say wow this is real, I’m here. I didn’t think I’d be in a place like this that has so much history and success behind it. But, there are days where you feel a responsibility to uphold that tradition.”

Coach Matt Toblin 
Previously coaching at Ponte Vedra High School, Toblin moved to Bolles where he plans to enforce Bolles’ mantra of pursuing excellence in his coaching. Toblin wants to use these values to teach his players the value of life. In his coaching, he is also teaching his players that there is no instant gratification in life, so they must all have grit to pursue their own success. “Football is a vehicle to being the best part of yourself”

Toblin personally has gotten through life because of his participation in athletics, saying that the values he has learned from them better him. “I am the person that I am because of my participation in athletics.”

Although he has coached at Ponte Vedra High School and a small college named Southern Oregon University, he knows that the playing is mostly the same for this sport. “Football is football whether it is at the biggest colleges or the smallest high schools.”

“Football is a vehicle to being the best part of yourself” Coach Matt Toblin

Toblin previously worked under Head Coach Craig Howard at Nease, where Tim Tebow played football. He learned how to take on the role of a coach with grit and capability of forming a true team because, “…it is more than winning and losing, it is the people.”

Teamwork and community also drive a team. Although Bolles students are committed academically and socially as well as through their sports, it is important to be willing to work for a promise of success in all of the above. “We believe we can use football to help people have a better understanding of how to commit to a cause greater than themselves.”

Thomas Gorman 
Thomas Gorman, affectionately known as Uncle Thomas, T-$ (T-Money), or T-Swizzle, joined the Bolles athletic team in August 2018. Settling down in Jacksonville after working at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley then Florida A&M, Gorman has had much experience putting athletes back on the field with a little bandaging and his famous “you go out there and be somebody” farewell.
Gorman played a variety of sports growing up. He swam competitively in middle school, played football, basketball, baseball, and volleyball in high school, then baseball in college, giving him a good understanding of all of an athlete’s aches and pains no matter the sport.
One of his most memorable experiences as a trainer was during his first two weeks working at his rival high school. During a football game, a student got badly injured and Gorman offered to let the student squeeze his hand to take his mind off the pain. “When the student saw his parents coming over he yelled, ‘get off the field mom and dad.’ However, when the EMS arrived with a spine board to help the student, Gorman recalls “he squeezed down on my hand and said please don’t leave me.”

Coach Christie Bateh
Coach Christie Bateh, formerly the Junior Varsity coach for cheerleading at Bolles, has joined the Varsity team as head coach this year. Bateh started at Bolles five years ago as the Junior Varsity coach after cheering semi-professionally for the Jacksonville Axemen.

Bateh has been involved with cheerleading for most of her life, doing cheer in high school and college. “Cheerleading never gets boring,” she said, “it is constantly changing, with a new team each year and new routines.” As for her goals for the season, Bateh hopes to be able to implement some changes to “bring Bolles cheer up a level,” and be the front runner for the start of something new. Bateh’sfavourite memory at Bolles was made during her first year coaching at the school. During the first football game, Bateh was able to see first hand how excited the cheerleaders were on the sidelines, and that moment was really special to her.

Coach Conny Kirsch
Kirsch started off her rowing career in Germany. In her rowing history, she has won the World Championship for rowing for Germany as a 16-year old and rowed again in 1996 and 1998 with equal success. Kirsch’s passion was rowing was a constant for Kirsch in times where changes in her family impacted her.  “I think rowing can provide all that, teaching independence, teaching perseverance, being strong when it’s really hard”

Until her high school teacher, acting as a counselor, guided her through high school and helped her find her path after, she was alone when her family could not be there to support her.

“I studied psychology to go into that role of somebody who can be so impactful” Coach Conny Kirsch

After being recruited by Ohio State for her rowing skill, she moved to America and studied psychology at this university. “I studied psychology to go into that role of somebody who can be so impactful…I actually wanted to be involved with people in general and guide people to be successful. I feel like I can still do that in coaching”.

After her graduation from Ohio State, she coached full-time for colleges UMASS, Indiana State, and UCF. After her experiences coaching these college rowers, she began to coach junior rowers. Because of her interests in advising and rowing, she took on the role of a crew coach at Bolles. She now uses the values that she had learned when studying psychology in her coaching. She wants to teach values on top of the rowing itself.

Her main goal for the season is to grow the crew program and will bring her knowledge of “team culture” and independence on the water to Bolles’ crew team.