Why these college coaches have moved to the NJ high school level

Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com

Why these college coaches have moved to the NJ high school level

High School Sports

Why these college coaches have moved to the NJ high school level

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Marissa Bariso isn’t thinking about winning when she steps onto the softball field at Kinnelon Recreation Park. Instead, the Colts’ new coach wants “to bring the fun back” to the game.

Bariso became a head coach for the first time this spring, after playing at New Jersey City University and a year as a volunteer assistant to her former coach, Bridgette Quimbo, at Ramapo College. She had run youth clinics in Kinnelon, Little Falls, Pequannock and West Milford. But this is her first time organizing everything.

Kinnelon High School (N.J.) gave Bariso her first victory, 10-1 against Morris Hills on Thursday. It was a very different feeling from when Ramapo won its first New Jersey Athletic Conference Tournament title last spring.

“I got to learn from some fantastic coaches, and observe how to run a really effective practice,” said Bariso, 27, a third- and fourth-grade special-education teacher in Little Falls.

“My coach was great at meeting everybody’s needs: the visual learners, the tactile learners, the auditory learners. I took that into my career, being a special ed teacher, understanding people learn differently. I think that’s made me a pretty successful coach. … I have to be able to see what they need, and provide them with the best way to coach.”

The compressed spring high school season has proven a challenge to new head coaches, particularly those who came from college programs.

Crysti Foote was accustomed to having time with the NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse teams she’d worked with all year, six weeks in the fall, up to four hours a day, six days a week starting in January, and then preseason.  But since taking over at Ridgewood High School (N.J.), “by the time we did tryouts, broke up into teams, and implemented a few things, we had our first scrimmage. I felt so unprepared.”

Foote also hasn’t had the seemingly unlimited video she could get at the NCAA level.

“Trying to get as much knowledge to these kids as possible in a short amount of time, that’s the biggest change for me,” said Foote, 33, who spent two years as offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at the University of Florida, and held similar roles at Louisville, Notre Dame, Columbia and Drew.

“We’re going into warmups before games, and I’m still teaching and coaching. On the bus. Any minutes available. There’s so much to the game, and my goal is to continue to increase their lacrosse IQ so they go into games feeling confident.”

New Randolph baseball coach Mark Rizzi spent the last 17 seasons at Rutgers-Newark. (Photo: Courtesy of Larry Levanti)

For Mark Rizzi, moving from Rutgers-Newark to Randolph High School (N.J.) is a bit of a break. Rizzi spent 17 years with the Scarlet Raiders, including 20-win seasons in 2009, 2010, 2011 – and tying a school record with 24 in 2017. But back in high school, he is able to step away from many administrative and academic responsibilities and focus on baseball.

Certified to teach English and elementary education, Rizzi hopes to be back in the classroom in the fall.

As he told Brian Boulineau, a Randolph alumnus turned Rutgers-Newark infielder, “The biggest difference is I don’t know them.” He didn’t recruit the guys on the high school field, as opposed to the Scarlet Raiders.

“You spend 20 percent of your time coaching the sport, and the rest was coaching the student-athlete,” said Rizzi, who began his career at his alma mater, the since-closed Paterson Catholic, earning a 86-25 record in his final four seasons in the late 1990s.

“In college, you get a finished product and you get paid to be successful. … In high school, you have more of an influence on the student-athlete when it comes to the sport you’re coaching. Hopefully, you teach them teamwork and how to deal with failure.”

Bariso also is focused on “boosting their confidence and being there to hold them up” in softball, where succeeding at the plate a third of the time is considered successful. She enjoys jumping into practice to demonstrate, as does Foote, who was part of the Canadian national team at four World Cups.

Foote already knew Ridgewood’s tradition of excellence in lacrosse – and that was part of what drew her back to a high school sideline. But the first couple of weeks with the Maroons, Foote caught herself eyeing her own assistant, Marissa Hughes, thinking, “That used to be me.”

But she admitted winning is “more rewarding” as a head coach. Undefeated Ridgewood is No. 1 in NorthJersey.com’s weekly top 10, and No. 10 nationally according to US Lacrosse magazine.

“I love coaching and teaching and mentoring. That’s really what I’m passionate about,” said Foote, the director of lacrosse at Centercourt’s eight locations.

“I still stay really hands on in terms of that. … You feel like you have a say in the outcome of things. It feels good to feel fully invested in something, and having that success show.”

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