By: M. Ellis, Sports Information Student Assistant
On a chilly afternoon in November, I had the chance to chat with our own R.J. Toner, the Head Women’s basketball coach. As I conducted the interview, I couldn’t help but notice the changing colors of the leaves on the trees outside my window. A new season had begun, and so will a new season for the Bay Path College basketball team. Perhaps this season will be a winning season.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your educational background?
A: I graduated from Manchester High School located in Manchester, CT in 1999 and attended Saint Joseph’s College of Maine located in Standish, Maine. I graduated from Saint Josephs in 2003 with my degree in Physical Education with a concentration for teacher preparation. Education is a valuable tool that you can never get enough of and it makes you as an individual a more rounded person.
Q: Have you received any certifications pertaining to your current position?
A: The certifications that I have are First Aid and CPR, High School coaching permit which allows me to coach at any High School in Connecticut.
Q: Are you a member of any coaching associations?
A: I am a member of the NCAA (College) and CAS-CIAC (High School) coaches associations.
Q: What developed your interest in coaching?
A: In 1996 my father died on a basketball floor while playing in an alumni game for charity. At the time I was 15 and my sister Jessica, who attends Bay Path presently, was very young, 8 years old. It was her first year playing basketball and my father was the head coach of her team. With him gone someone had to coach and at the age of 15 I took over. While coaching this team I saw how rewarding it was when a child/student or athlete had learned something new for the first time. Seeing the smile on their faces when they achieve their personal and team goals is when I really get paid. Knowing that I can make a difference and motivate individuals to reach their highest potential is what drives me every day in both the teaching and coaching fields. My father, in his death gave me a gift that I will always value and through coaching a little bit of him lives on in me each and every day.
Q: How would you describe your coaching style?
A: I would describe my teaching/coaching style as applying the skills necessary to compete on the basketball court to the everyday life experiences we all face day to day. Relating the content that I give them to things in their own lives allows them to apply it to things that they experience outside of Bay Path College. This makes what I teach more concrete and sticks much better in their minds. Having my student-athletes set realistic goals that are achievable and attainable motivates them to reach levels they may have never thought they were capable of. This challenges them to be better for not just themselves but for the sake of the whole team.
Q: What are your pre-season thoughts?
A: Talent wise this year’s team has more talent than any other basketball team this college has ever seen. We are very versatile at every position and all the players have bought into the philosophy I have developed. They believe in one another and will go through a wall for each other. If we continue to build on last year’s successes and challenge ourselves to stay focused for forty minutes this team could be playing well into February. The deciding factor in our success will be to stay healthy and properly conditioned for three months.
Q: What is the best advice you would give your players?
A: The best advice I would give my athletes would be to settle for nothing and don’t let anyone deny you of what you are most passionate about. Aside from proving to yourself that YOU can do it, the next best thing is proving to others how powerful you truly are as an individual. In life there are many curves and bumpy roads along the way but you truly have only two options. The first being avoiding every bump and straying away from your path or going over those bumps and straightening those curves to pave your own way. That makes it your own personal journey, and it makes you stronger as an individual and a team member.
Q: Who had the greatest influence in your life?
A: The greatest influence in my life without a question would be my mother. Through her strength and wisdom she has shaped me into the person I am today. She is strong enough to move a mountain and has kept me grounded and focused in the most adverse of times. She is more than just my mother but also my best friend.
Q: What is a quote that you live by?
A: The quote I live by everyday is “Make a difference. Not just in your own life, but in someone else’s. When you can make an impact in the lives of another individual you will not just be heard but you will always be remembered.” Anonymous.
Q: What motivates you?
A: I am motivated by the struggles that get thrown at me on a day to day basis. Overcoming these obstacles and coming out on top gives me the most satisfaction. When someone says “I can’t”, I like to rise to the occasion and say “Watch this!” Being challenged makes the victory even sweeter.
Q: What are your hopes for this Basketball season?
A: My hopes for this season are that these young ladies rise to the occasion and see just how special of a team they are. If they can work together and look out for each other on the basketball court, this team is capable of anything. In the end I would like to see them in playoffs for the first time in a long time. They have the power to change history and not be it. Competing is the most important aspect to me and if we can compete and put ourselves in some close situations I could see this team pulling off double digit wins this year.
Q: Finally Coach Toner, how would you describe your experience at Bay Path College?
A: My experience here at Bay Path College has been very rewarding. The support of the faculty at Bay Path College has been tremendous. When I first stepped foot on campus, it did not have a typical college campus atmosphere but felt more like home. I want to thank Dr. Carol Leary and Steve Smith for giving me the opportunity to make an impact on these young ladies lives and grow as not just a coach but a teacher as well.