It only took two years for Kathy Paul to have an impact on George Washington High School’s athletic program.
Now she’s running the show.
In addition to teaching health and physical education at Washington High, Paul coaches the varsity field hockey, bowling and softball teams.
This winter, she’s adding one more.
Paul was named head coach of the girls varsity basketball team, taking over for longtime boss Marvin Carter, who retired last year.
“I can truly say that since I’ve been here, bowling, field hockey, softball, now basketball … it’s been great,” said Paul, a Northeast native and graduate of Northeast High School. “I’m really glad I’m here. Coaching is the best part of my day. To see them do the things that we worked on in practice and to see them do it in a game situation, it’s rewarding.”
Paul will inherit a basketball team that went just 3-10 overall last year. She has only two returning four-year players. Twelve other players have never competed for an organized basketball program before.
“Right now we’re just young and inexperienced. But I see a lot of improvement every day,” said Paul. “We don’t have the luxury of having JV basketball, so I have a lot of first-year players.”
Although this is her first high school coaching gig on the hardwood, Paul has more than 20 years of experience mentoring at the middle-school level.
After graduating from Penn State University with a degree in exercise and sports science in 1989, Paul began her teaching career as a substitute. She was officially hired by the School District of Philadelphia in 1991. At the same time, she began coaching field hockey at Cedarbrook Middle School in Cheltenham, where she called the shots for the next 10 years.
She also scored coaching stints at Wilson Middle School — Paul coached field hockey and boys soccer — and the John Paul Jones Middle School, where she coached softball.
“Ever since I’ve been teaching, I’ve been coaching,” said Paul. “Of course I want my teams to win, but I want them to learn to work as a team, to learn sportsmanship.
“It’s all about having fun,” she continued. “I’ve played sports since I was six. I’ve always had good coaches. I try to be a positive role model for them. Set a good example. No excuses. Do your best, play your best, and give it your all.”
A 1985 Northeast High School graduate, Paul played for the Vikings’ field hockey, basketball and softball teams. She continued to play for softball teams until her late 20s.
ldquo;I still use some of the drills we did way back then,” Paul explained. “They still work. All the things they instilled in me, I instill in my kids. Sports keep you motivated. It got me to where I am today.”
In the fall, her first year as the field hockey coach, Paul guided the Eagles to a Public League championship appearance but they lost to her alma mater, Northeast High School, with 58 seconds left in the game.
“Field hockey was great, because I feel like field hockey was a sport where I could come in and work strategies,” Paul explained. “I wasn’t teaching basic skills. These were experienced players who knew the game.
“I thought I’d be coming into high school and the kids would have the basic skills, but that’s not always the case,” she continued. “We have a lot of new basketball players this year, so we’ll have to go back to fundamentals.”
Paul says she has such high hopes for building the basketball program that she wants to stay with the Eagles as long as possible.
“When the opportunity was presented at George Washington, I knew I wanted to coach here,” she said. “I love it here. As long as the position is here, I’m here. I hope to retire at Washington.” ••
Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org