Northeast Times

Tole comes full circle

  • Here to help: Megan Tole starred at Ryan from 2005-09. After a successful stint as a girls soccer player at Holy Family, Tole has returned to her high school alma mater, where she helps out the same teams she once played for as an assistant coach. ED MORRONE / TIMES PHOTO

  • Throwback: Tole in action for Holy Family’s soccer team during her senior season in 2012. Tole scored 81 goals while playing at Ryan and was the first soccer player to have her number retired by the school. She recently entered the Philadelphia Police Academy and is on target to graduate in June of next year. PHOTO COURTESY OF HOLY FAMILY UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS

After a stel­lar ca­reer as a stu­dent-ath­lete at Arch­bish­op Ry­an led Megan Tole to Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity on a soc­cer schol­ar­ship, she knew that she wanted to come back and re­turn the fa­vor. 

Back at Ry­an as a vo­lun­teer as­sist­ant coach for the two teams she starred for (soc­cer and bas­ket­ball) in high school — as well as re­cently en­ter­ing the Phil­adelphia Po­lice Academy — it’s safe to say that Tole has a knack for help­ing oth­ers.

After all, it was Tole’s high school coaches at Ry­an who saw the po­ten­tial in her, so in her mind, it was the least she could do to help the next crop of fe­male standout-ath­letes at the school.

“Part of me al­ways wanted to help out or coach in some way, es­pe­cially at this school,” Tole said dur­ing a Sunday chat fol­low­ing a Ry­an bas­ket­ball prac­tice. “I love Ry­an, and I love be­ing here. I view it as an ac­com­plish­ment that they thought enough of me to ask me to come back and help out. It’s just an awe­some ex­per­i­ence to go from play­ing here to be­ing on the oth­er side. When my seni­or sea­son at Holy Fam­ily ended, I was done play­ing and I was kind of up­set. Then I got the call that I could come help out with bas­ket­ball, and my eyes just lit up.”

Tole gradu­ated from Ry­an in 2009. As a mem­ber of Ry­an Haney’s soc­cer pro­gram, she scored 81 goals in her ca­reer and was the first soc­cer play­er to have her num­ber re­tired by the school. Pri­or to this sea­son’s Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ship win over Arch­bish­op Wood (Tole’s first as a vo­lun­teer as­sist­ant on Haney’s staff), it was Tole’s seni­or class that had been the last one to de­feat the Lady Vik­ings on the soc­cer field. Girls on the 2013 team spoke about Tole’s leg­acy lead­ing up to the title game, want­ing to beat Wood the same way she did in the cham­pi­on­ship in 2008. The feel­ing was mu­tu­al, Tole main­tained. 

“This soc­cer sea­son was in­cred­ible. I felt like I was still play­ing,” she said, re­fer­ring to Ry­an’s 1-0 double-over­time vic­tory. “When we scored, Haney and I jumped up like we were still play­ers on the field. We just nailed it, and it was an in­cred­ible feel­ing.”

Though soc­cer was ad­mit­tedly her top sport, Tole was also known as a ten­a­cious point guard on the bas­ket­ball team. Jack­ie Hartzell be­came the head girls bas­ket­ball coach Tole’s seni­or year, and it was Hartzell who reached out to Tole dur­ing her seni­or year at Holy Fam­ily to see if she wanted to help out on her staff. The Rag­dolls had a fant­ast­ic sea­son, ad­van­cing all the way to the Cath­ol­ic League semi­finals be­fore fall­ing to Wood.

“Megan is the best,” said Hartzell, now the head coach at the Uni­versity of the Sci­ences, in an email to the Times. “She helped me coach one of my AAU teams in the spring of her seni­or year at Ry­an, and I al­ways knew I wanted her on my staff. I think it’s im­port­ant to have alum on staff, es­pe­cially someone who had such a suc­cess­ful ca­reer both on the bas­ket­ball court and on the soc­cer field. 

“She brought en­ergy and en­thu­si­asm, and the play­ers love and re­spect her. I was so glad to hear that (new head coach) Mike Mc­Cusk­er kept her on staff (as a vo­lun­teer) be­cause she is such a valu­able as­set to the pro­gram and such a great role mod­el.”

“Some­times you just know be­fore they even fin­ish their ca­reer with you that they will grow in­to be­ing a great coach be­cause of the lead­er­ship abil­ity they dis­played with their team­mates,” ad­ded Jill Ke­han Reeves, who coached Tole at Holy Fam­ily. “With the pas­sion Megan had as a play­er, you could tell she couldn’t wait to share her know­ledge with our youth.”

Tole said her role as a vo­lun­teer as­sist­ant is some­what spe­cial­ized. For ex­ample, as a former point guard, she fo­cuses a lot of her at­ten­tion on that po­s­i­tion and all that it per­tains, of­fens­ively and de­fens­ively; as a former striker in soc­cer, she works a lot with the for­wards on things like break­aways and foot­work. She likes to fo­cus on the “little things” head coaches might miss.

She takes her role very ser­i­ously, mainly be­cause as a re­cent high school and col­lege ath­lete, she sees her­self in these girls and wants to make sure they fully real­ize their po­ten­tial so that they can put them­selves in a bet­ter po­s­i­tion to gain a schol­ar­ship, be it ath­let­ic or aca­dem­ic.

“Firstly, I want to make sure they’re do­ing good in school,” she said. “I just talk to them and tell them it’s a great thing to go to col­lege, and I want that for all of them. I try to push them to be the best ver­sions of them­selves. There are girls here that can go places, and if they get lazy, you have to be hard on them. They’re here to study hard and play hard. That’s what I’m here for, to help make sure they do that. It’s just something I knew I wanted to do when I was done play­ing … to help oth­er people.”

Tole said that Hartzell and Haney “pre­pared me to be a bet­ter ath­lete and per­son, someone that would be ready for col­lege.” Hav­ing the struc­ture of a high school ath­lete helped her with her col­lege re­spons­ib­il­it­ies, and that’s pro­pelled her in­to the po­lice academy. Tole, who gradu­ated with a de­gree in crim­in­al justice from Holy Fam­ily and still lives around the corner from the cam­pus, is en­ter­ing her ninth week in the academy. Her class of 52 is on track to gradu­ate in June, when she’ll be giv­en a foot patrol as­sign­ment for the first year of be­ing on the force. Even­tu­ally, she said she’d like to be­come a de­tect­ive, es­pe­cially after in­tern­ing with North­east De­tect­ives dur­ing her seni­or year at Holy Fam­ily.

“I’m really en­joy­ing it so far,” she said. “It’s a lot of study­ing, and the pro­cess for get­ting in was very long, but I just really like to help people. Just to be able to do something small for someone else, that’s a re­ward that makes me feel good. It’s the type of job where every day is dif­fer­ent, al­ways something ex­cit­ing hap­pen­ing where you have to be on your toes. You don’t have to be chained to a desk, which I like. I want to be act­ive.”

One thing is crys­tal clear: no mat­ter where the po­lice academy takes her, Tole hopes to con­tin­ue coach­ing as long as her sched­ule al­lows it. Time may be­come trick­i­er once she gradu­ates, but her love of the games she played — as well as the school that mol­ded her — will be an urge too strong to res­ist.

“I’d love to keep coach­ing here and do whatever I can to help when I have time,” she said. “Even if I have to work around my sched­ule and can only get here for a few hours, that would still be awe­some. See­ing these girls grow from in­di­vidu­als in­to a team work­ing to­ward their goals, that’s such a great feel­ing, to see them suc­ceed in the sport they en­joy.

“It’s pretty cool that I get to see both sides. I un­der­stand what the girls are go­ing through as play­ers, and also what the coaches are try­ing to get them to do. I’m just so glad to be able to help out in any way that I can.” ••

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus