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Former Wilmot star tackling new challenge
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Former Wilmot star tackling new challenge

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Former Wilmot girls basketball standout Sarah Vozel thought she had a perfect plan when her college playing days came to an end.

But as oftentimes is with life, things can quickly change.

Vozel, who starred collegiately at both Ashford and St. Xavier, was looking to possibly get into the basketball coaching ranks as a graduate assistant, but when those plans fell through, she turned to her former high school coach, Keiya Square.

The match on the basketball bench seemed to be perfect, except for one slight issue.

About a week later, Square transitioned from basketball to Wilmot’s varsity football coach, which could have put yet another obstacle in Vozel’s path.

No problem, though, as Vozel joined the girls basketball staff as an assistant, and before the start of the 2019 season, took Square up on an offer to coach football.

Square praises Vozel’s coaching

Two different sports, obviously, but the fit has worked out beautifully.

“I think she’s doing great,” Square said. “She comes in with some experience in terms of brothers and cousins playing football and going to games, but never at the high school level playing, obviously, so she’s come in and is trying to soak everything up like a sponge.

“She’s learning it the way we’re teaching it and exactly how we want it, so she can teach it to the kids. She’s been doing a great job.”

Vozel said she’s excited to finally join her former high school coach.

“It’s kind of cool to be on the same side of the coaching thing with (Square) now,” Vozel said. “It’s a different sport, but it’s still really cool. I really like the atmosphere.

“The kids and coaches have all been super receptive and helpful in getting me caught up to speed and doing everything we need to do to help the guys.”

Vozel is working with the Wilmot wide receivers along with helping the managers with many of the logistical things that go into running a high school football program.

Square works with the program’s quarterbacks, so he and Vozel spend a lot of time in the same drills, but at other times, he’s able to put the head coach’s hat on, sit back and observe from a bit of a distance.

And it’s no surprise to him that she’s fitting in just fine.

“There’s times when she’s out there by herself doing her thing and the kids are running the drills, she’s coaching them up, and you can hear her from across the field,” Square said. “She’s continually coaching the kids and learning herself by continuing to give the verbal feedback.

“I think that’s huge. If the coach is continually coaching them and showing that they know what we’re trying to do, it doesn’t matter if they’re male, female, old coach, new coach. If the kids know that you know what you’re talking about, they’re going to listen and follow.”

One of the main challenges, Vozel said, comes down to numbers. In basketball, the roster is much smaller than in football, so working with that volume has been an adjustment, she said.

“Just having to learn all these kids’ names, who they are, what they’re good at, that was definitely something at the beginning (I had to learn),” she said. “There’s just a lot more kids on a football team.

“Obviously, just getting caught up to speed with Wilmot’s program (was another). Different terminology and just stuff that I had to learn so I could help the kids figure it out. The coaches have been super helpful (with that).”

The film work Vozel does also helps her in a couple of different ways, she said. Not only can it aid her in what she teaches to the receivers, it’s also a learning tool for her as she grows as a football coach.

And there’s always plenty of film to watch, whether it’s an upcoming opponent, the Panthers and even practice sessions.

“It’s a huge part of coaching football,” Vozel said. “We film practices, and we’re looking at stuff all the time. You see it once at practice, you see it during the game, but it’s so much different watching it on film.”

Vozel, a 2013 Wilmot graduate, is back in the building as well as a student-teacher this semester. She’s also entering her third year as an assistant girls basketball coach with the Panthers.

Having another familiar face on the staff, defensive coordinator Brian Hopkins, also has helped Vozel make the transition.

Hopkins is a 2012 Wilmot graduate, and he and Vozel have known each other for years, she said.

“We went to Riverview together and grew up down the street (from each other),” Vozel said. “He’s another fun one to have on the staff.”

But that’s not to say the two don’t compete daily, as Hopkins’ defensive players work against Vozel’s receivers.

“It’s a lot of friendly competition,” she said. “It’s really fun. He’s helped because I’ve known him a long time. Right off the bat, he’s been very willing to answer questions from me.”

Wilmot’s coaching staff clicks

The chemistry among all the coaches has been great, Vozel said, which is vital because of all the time the staff spends together.

And that’s not to say there isn’t some friendly bantering back and forth, which is apt to happen among any coaching staff.

“It’s real helpful to go in there (at the start) and have some kind of relationship with some of the guys, because otherwise, that could be kind of intimidating,” Vozel said. “... They’ve helped me feel super comfortable. (The banter) is definitely fun. It lightens the mood up a bit.”

Vozel said she’s found herself taking in the atmosphere of a Friday night football game, which can oftentimes be quite electric, especially with a big crowd in attendance.

“That was something that was pretty new,” she said. “Playing and coaching basketball, you’re not generally in that kind of atmosphere unless it’s a crazy, big game. ... It definitely is a lot of fun. There’s so much energy. I’ve been in the stands many times watching football games, and that’s really fun as well, but to be on the field, I’m totally immersed in everything that’s going on.”

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