Q&A: Battle High School coaches discuss plans for new teams

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:42 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 22, 2013

This includes coaches who were hired as April 12. 

John Burns, boys basketball and practical arts

What school are you coming from?

I spent the 2012 to 2013 season as the head coach for Basha High School in Chandler, Ariz.

What is your previous coaching experience? 

I started as a player for the University of Missouri and coached at Hickman High School for a season before coming to Arizona. Before Hickman, I was a college assistant coach and head coach for Fort Scott Community College (in Kansas).

Why did you want to come back to Columbia to coach at the new high school?

Columbia feels like home to me. When my family lived in Kansas City, my dad and I would take trips to Columbia for football and basketball games. This is a part of me and who I am. I'm choosing this for family and friends, and also because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's my chance to change a community and make a difference in the whole city of Columbia.

What are you excited for in starting a new program?

I'm excited for the possibilities that exist in starting a brand-new program, a brand-new school. You're building everything from the ground up. There's no, "This is how it's always been." We get to create the culture and the program we want, and that's incredibly exciting. 

How do you want to create a culture on your team?

I think you establish how you want your players to be. We want them to be great people first and great students second and great athletes. It's a process. You're starting from scratch, so it takes time. Day in and day out, you build relationships with them and they learn what they need to be successful. 

What are you hoping to achieve with this team?

I hope we're the most well-respected program in the state of Missouri. That's our ultimate goal. I want people to say, "Hey, Battle is the best basketball program there is." 

What do you want the community to be saying about the Battle basketball program a year from when the school opens?

"How in the world are they that good in a year?" 

Angie Roberds, girls basketball and physical education

Where did you work previously?

Athletics director and physical education department chair at Oakland Junior High.

What will you do at Battle?

Head coach for girls basketball team and physical education teacher.

Why did you want to work at Battle?

I love helping kids, I love teaching and I love coaching. What a great opportunity to open up a brand new school and to teach kids that I am familiar with. Most of these kids have come through Oakland, and I really love these kids, and I can’t wait to get out there and see them grow up.

What do you think the difference will be between junior high and high school?

Prior to Oakland, I was at Mexico High School, and I taught high school physical education and was head coach for the softball team and was assistant coach for track and field and coached boys basketball there at the junior-high level.

It’s going to be fun. At the junior high level, there are a lot of ups at downs emotionally. You just try to help them figure out how to navigate the world.

At the high school level, they’re a little bit better at it, and you just keep helping them make their way in the world. It’s about the same thing; it’s just that emotionally they just need a little bit more help at the junior-high level.

What about Battle appealed to you?

I’ve worked under Dr. Presko for about 10 years. She is a wonderful principal. The ability to continue my career under Dr. Presko felt right, and it’s an outstanding feeling, it’s a comfortable feeling. I want to make Battle High School the very best.

How do you plan to help build the culture, particularly in sports?

We are going to build the culture with my relationships that I’ve developed with Oakland kids — we are going to build upon those. We are a family at Oakland. These kids are going to continue up into Battle.

We are going to use our influence with these students to build an educational, solid foundation at Battle. A winning program with sports. These kids are loved. We’re going to feed them and make them grow.

Do you think you will already know students who try out for the basketball team who will then step up to be leaders?

Currently, I coach the eighth grade girls at Oakland. Those are going to be the first group of freshman up at Battle. Current ninth-graders at Oakland have already taken my class. I know them, and I talk to them daily.

I’m really excited about the Hickman girls. I’ve seen them when they were little junior high kids, and now they’re growing up so fast. Their talent is outstanding, and I can’t wait to work with them.

Have you been scouting out people you think will contribute at Battle?

I go and support Hickman and Rock Bridge in town, and I am familiar with a lot of the girls. A lot of the girls came from Oakland. I’ve been to the games to support them and cheer on the couches. I do know their strengths and weaknesses. Currently, I’m expecting to have most kids drawn from Hickman.

How do you think teaching at a new high school will impact your life?

I feel like we’re going to build a great foundation for the future teachers at Battle and for those kids who will come back as alums. I feel like Dr. Presko has put together a strong staff, coaching and teaching and support staff. I feel like it’s going to change my life because I’m going to proud to be a part of the high school and proud to be a part of something new in Columbia that we can build and grow.

What aspects of the facilities are you most excited about?

The competition gymnasium and auxiliary gymnasium are fantastic. As a former athletic director and a physical education teacher, I’m excited about all the sports facilities.

Any final thoughts?

My passion is coaching. I feel privileged to be the first coach at Battle. I need to give back what was given to me in high school. My coach in high school was a major influence in my life, and my coach in college was a major influence in my life. I need to give back what they gave to me.

Joe Henderson, softball coach

What school are you coming from?

I currently am the assistant softball coach at Columbia College. 

What is your previous coaching experience?

I was the assistant softball coach at Rock Bridge for seven years. I was the head coach there for four years. I coached for one year at Lincoln University, and I'm currently in my third season at Columbia College. 

Why did you want to come to Battle?

I missed coaching high school, number one, because it gives you the opportunity to also mentor besides coach. Number two, the excitement of a school getting started and building a great tradition brings a good challenge and some excitement. Building it from scratch. 

What kind of a program do you want build?

I want to build a student-centered program that's built on character and discipline and provides a whole student-centered opportunity for kids: academic, athletic and pride in school and community. 

How do you anticipate sports impacting the culture of the school?

Well, because it's brand new, there is no culture yet, so we'll have to see what culture is developed there. I expect the athletic program, at least my girls on the softball team, to be a part of the school academically, socially and in the community itself. I would expect Battle to be a well-rounded school for the kids, one of the best schools in the state academically and athletically.

I always try to build a seamless approach, so that the athletes, at least my athletes, get a well-rounded high school experience so when they go off to college to play softball or just to get an education, they've learned a lot and have been part of the community and it's something they want to come back to. 

Jared Wood, baseball coach

What school are you coming from?

South Callaway (High School) in Mokane.

What is your previous coaching experience?

I coached two years at the college level as an assistant coach. This is my eighth year coaching at a high school. 

Why did you want to come to Battle?

I grew up about 30 miles north of Columbia, around the Moberly area. After high school, I went on to play college baseball and then professionally, and anytime anybody would ask me where I was from, I would say Columbia. So Columbia has always felt like my home, and when the opportunity presented itself, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

I have a really good situation at South Callaway — I have a lot of support from the administration and everybody else. I just thought this was an opportunity to better myself.

What are you most excited about for your first season?

It's about the kids and being able to work with them, and building a brand-new program from scratch is really exciting to me. It's something a lot of coaches don't get to do. Building something from nothing, I think, is the most exciting part. 

What type of program do you hope to build?

First and foremost, instill the qualities that will help them become better men for their futures. Of course, you as a coach want to win, but I think it's the little things that you teach them, like time management and things like that that really make a good team.

How do you think sports impact the culture of a new school?

It's huge. Generally a school does rally around their athletics, so the athletic aspect is a big focal point. The more successful they are, the more attention generally comes to the school. It's big. However, I have always said academics before athletics, so that is truly the most important part of it. 

Jack Rubenstein, girls soccer coach and physical education

What school are you coming from?

I'm currently teaching elementary P.E. at Derby Ridge Elementary here in Columbia, and I'm coaching soccer at Rock Bridge High School, currently. 

What is your previous coaching experience?

I've been with a number of programs over the years. I've spent a number of years at Rock Bridge High School as an assistant coach, I was an assistant coach at Columbia College for three years, I was an assistant coach at Jefferson City High School for one year, and I was also the head ODP (Olympic Development Program) coach for the 1999 girls team here in the state of Missouri. 

What do you most look forward to for your first season at Battle?

There's just so much anticipation over the past year, I'm just looking forward to getting the players out there and getting going with training and playing. It's been a long wait, and I'm just looking forward to carrying through with everything that we already have planned with our summer schedule and the fall season.

What kind of a team do you want to build?

I want to build a team with a strong work ethic, a team that takes pride in working hard and doing all the right things and all the little things that will help add up to build a successful program overall.

How do sports impact the culture of a school, especially a new school?

I think it will greatly impact the culture of the school. I think sports are such a great outlet for kids to get involved in. It is a positive way for them to spend their time. Sports — it really does reveal kids' character. They learn a lot about themselves throughout their high school years and learn how to work together as a team toward a common goal. I think it greatly impacts the culture in a positive way. 

Justin Conyers, football coach and physical education

What school are you coming from?

Rock Bridge High School.

What is your previous coaching experience?

I've been at Rock Bridge for the past nine years. I've been the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach there.

Why did you decide to come to Battle?

I wanted to come over there because I'm from Columbia, and I want to be a head football coach. Battle High School opening up and being able to start a brand-new program from the ground up just presented a great opportunity.

What type of a program do you want to build?

We have a unique opportunity. I want to be very tradition-rich. That's a great thing for us to start from the ground up, building our own traditions. Very family-oriented, and very academic-oriented. Having our kids, whether they continue to play at the next level after high school or not, being able to qualify to go to college and being able to play at the next level if they need to and that's where the academic piece comes in.

How do you anticipate sports impacting the culture at Battle?

Huge impact. A lot of these kids, obviously all of our kids are coming from schools within our district, so a lot of the kids are already involved in sports, and some aren't. I think it presents an opportunity for those who have not been involved to get involved and for those that have been involved to continue to be involved and grow our programs and be a part of something that's never been.

The kids have an opportunity, every time they step on the playing field in any sport, the opportunity to leave their mark. I think that's pretty exciting for these kids.  

Matt Ross, girls golf coach and social studies

What school are you coming from?

I've been at Jeff Junior High for five years as a social studies teacher. I've been teaching social studies for 12 years in total. This year, I am an assistant principal, and I've coached everything under the sun. I'll be going to Battle to coach girls golf.

Why did you want to teach at Battle High School?

Battle is right next door to a golf course! I'm joking. On the ground level, I want to be a part of developing a new culture in our community. This is an experience that will be with me the rest of my life. I'm excited to make kids coming out of different experiences all excited to be at Battle.

What kind of culture do you want to create at Battle?

A culture where kids feel like have ownership and pride in the new school. I want Battle to be a culture of respect, one that encourages kids to push themselves and a place where students feel like they want to be.

What do you hope to build the golf program on?

I definitely want to build it around the idea of open progress. We'll take on people who have never played before and start building young, enthusiastic players. I also want to build a competitive program. Right now, girls golf programs are experiencing reduced numbers. My goal is to get new players excited about the game.

What do you want the community to be saying about Battle a year after it opens?

I want them to be saying about the golf program, and Battle in general, this is the way it needs to be done. I want students to be glad they're at Battle. It's going to be work, but it's going to be fun.

Ben Smith, wrestling coach and social studies

What makes wrestling important to you?

When I was in high school, it helped mold me into the person I am today. It teaches you how to set goals and meet challenges. If you can become successful in wrestling, you can do it anywhere.

What do you want people to be saying about Battle after its first year?

After Battle’s first year, I want people to be impressed with how much school pride the community has developed so quickly.

How do you plan to integrate technology into your classroom?

We are already using some iPad apps in class, so I will just continue to explore more ways to use the iPads in a classroom setting.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

I wanted to be a teacher so I could be a positive role model for students and help them become successful in the future.

What are your goals for your time at Battle?

My goal for Battle is to create better people through their experiences in the classroom and through activities.

Coaches not featured:

Rebecca Wilmes, track and field and cross country coach 

Jon Mize, girls tennis coach 

Alison Schupp, volleyball coach 

Andrew Materer, boys tennis coach

Corey Cathey, cheer coordinator 

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