Swinging into second round as coach

Starting out as a substitute player on the junior varsity boys tennis team, he climbed the ladder to rank No. 1 for doubles in Covina High School’s varsity team by the end of his senior year. Seven years later, varsity girls and boys tennis coach Josiah Sibayan returns to coach the sport at Walnut.

Sibayan was previously the junior varsity girls and boys coach from 2018-2020. After the former varsity girls and boys coach Lee Shiomoto retired last year, Sibayan replaced Shiomoto as head coach.

“[The transition] has been exciting. I’m able to take the workouts to a much different level and push the athletes harder. The biggest concern I had when coaching junior varsity is that I didn’t want to push my athletes so hard that they get turned off by the sport,” Sibayan said. “But in varsity, your mindset changes to where the work is the enjoyment. The harder you work, the more results you get and the more self-confidence you have. It’s a never-ending cycle of how far you can push yourself.”

California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) has decided to combine fall, winter and spring seasons into two: fall and spring, officially beginning in December and February, respectively. Because of the new compressed athletic seasons, Sibayan will be juggling between varsity girls and boys tennis as they will be playing at the same time. Since matches will be longer than the usual two and a half to three hours, Sibayan plans to coordinate with other schools’ coaches to find efficient ways to help athletes from playing long hours.

“Right now, I am only coaching girls as it is technically their season, but I am reaching out to the boys to make sure they are practicing,” Sibayan said. “However, it’s hard to teach tennis when you’re not in front of your athletes and don’t have the equipment in hand. But this is a time for the athletes to learn about self-reliance and independence. It’s for them to realize what exactly they need to do to keep playing better and staying aware and healthy, so that they can put out as much effort as they can.”

Although varsity boys tennis is in its offseason, Sibayan advises them to stay in shape and active by recommending conditioning exercises. Both varsity teams have been practicing individually, following social distancing guidelines. Sibayan also suggests for them to also work on stroke techniques, strategies in the game and their mindsets going into matches.

“These athletes on varsity are all trying to find their upper limits. It’s my job as a coach to teach the team about their athletic performance and mentality going into varsity,” Sibayan said.

Sibayan has a degree in kinesiology from Biola University and is a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). With his expertise, he applies his knowledge to tennis workouts. For the first semester, Sibayan teaches varsity girls tennis during sixth period. Once a week over Zoom, a video conferencing platform, the team does group workouts. The team works on balance, muscle coordination and endurance to help with control while playing and build up its stamina. In October and once the school campus reopens, Sibayan plans to shift to plyometrics, which are exercises that involve jumping or explosive movement, and incorporate sprints and clap pushups into the team’s workouts.

“I would say my coaching style is all-around. If there’s an athlete that needs to be encouraged, I’ll be more of a helper rather than a drill sergeant. If there’s an athlete that’s not pushing themselves to the limit but I know they can, I’ll challenge them. I’ll say, ‘Let’s do another one. That’s not hard enough? Ok, let’s do it again. More reps. Harder. Faster. Stronger.’ I’ll keep encouraging them as they continue to improve,” Sibayan said.

As the new varsity coach, Sibayan plans to start a booster club for the teams. With the booster club, Sibayan hopes parents will be able to support the players by bringing snacks to the games and cheering them on during their matches. Sibayan also wants to begin ending each tennis practice with varsity and junior varsity teams playing with each other for fifteen minutes in order to incorporate more team cohesion within the program.

“Being a varsity coach was merely just a dream when I was 19 years old. Now that I’m in a much more responsible role, I want to see these athletes who are pulled into the program gain a sense of independence and self-worth from the whole process of playing tennis,” Sibayan said. “Learning how to improve yourself as an athlete transitions very well to improving yourself as a human being. If I’m able to be a mentor for my players through that growth and self-development process, I think I’ve done my job as a varsity coach.”

By Alison Ho, Media editor-in-chief
Photo courtesy of Yary Photography