Tigers News · Get To Know Us: Episode #10 – Head Tennis Coach Jesse Holt Jr.

LANHAM, MD – The Student Broadcast Program, also known as Tiger TV Productions, will begin rolling out a series titled, “Get To Know Us.”  Starting on January 5th, crew members will begin interviewing individuals who are involved in our athletic department.

Each week, you can expect to hear from one individual who will be interviewed by a Tiger TV Productions crew member.  Our crew members will ask a variety of questions and then will be able to post their interviewees’ responses.

A graphic representing each individual will be posted on Tiger TV Productions’ Instagram account and on our athletic website.

Everyone has a story to tell and here is a glimpse of ours, we hope you enjoy.

Mar. 9, 2021 (Episode #10)

Interviewer: Olaoluwa F.

Interviewee: Head Tennis Coach Jesse Holt Jr.

What were some challenges you had when playing sports?

The only challenge that I had playing tennis when I reached the “world class” professional level was the inability to travel to Europe where opportunities would be more accessible, was finance! During my earliest years, my mother took extra teaching jobs as a church vocal soloist, taught piano and voice lessons in our home in order to help pay for my travel around the country! My travel budget was based on $5 a meal and $30 a night for a motel room. This was at the beginning of my pro career. The minor leagues where I earned my 1st world ranking!

What tips would you give to student-athletes interested in tennis?

  • One must choose a sport based on their physical abilities, finance, and educational opportunities.
  • Research, read and educate yourself on your chosen sport.
  • Take a chapter from the Dark Knight and Luke Skywalker! Find a legitimate and highly qualified coach whom is willing to become your mentor!!
  • One should be willing to be open minded, have a strong work ethic, an open heart, spirit, and faith! These attributes are important because one never knows where opportunities for advancement may come from!!!

Did you play more than one sport in high school? If you did, what were the sports and how was your experience playing them?

I lettered in 3 sports in addition to participating in the orchestra, dance, concert, and marching bands. My instruments were the string bass, clarinet and sousaphone. In my freshman year at Vailsburg HS in Newark, NJ, I played JV football and tennis. During my sophomore year I ran cross country and tennis. Due to my drive, I was elected co-captain even though I was competing with seniors and juniors and was a first time participant! That year, I won the silver medal at the all city championship meet against the reigning senior! I attended McKinley Tech in Washington, D.C. as a music major in order to train so that I could earn a tennis scholarship at Howard University. I graduated from McKinley in 1974 and became conference champion at “the Real HU” in the Spring of 1975!

What did you do to prepare for a tennis match?

My preparation for any match is living a disciplined lifestyle daily and plan tournaments 12 months in advance! I planned my tournament and training schedule to peak for the most important matches and tournaments! On a more specific note, I ate pasta the night before, which is a carbohydrate! Every athlete has their own training meal regimen. When I was on the road or at home, I made sure that I had pancakes or waffles at least 2 hours before the match… always! That’s the general rule!

What made you want to play tennis?

All of my cousins in Newark, NJ were star athletes who made headlines by winning state championships and won national honors. I looked up to them, especially because I was also the smallest and wanted some of that swagger for myself. The main reason for playing tennis was to earn my father’s approval and respect! Tennis actually helped me to be successful and become a “champion in life”!

Mar. 2, 2021 (Episode #9)

Interviewer: Serena R.

Interviewee: Head Swimming Coach Malka Ostchega

Are there any hardships/challenges that come across you when teaching your student-athletes virtually because of the Coronavirus? If so, why or why not?

The hardest part of coaching swimming during the pandemic has been that we could not go in the water or be together. Our district did not allow practices of any kind for winter sports and many of the pools are not open to the public. It also made it difficult to grow the team.

If returning back to school and normal practices what expectations will you apply to ensure that your student-athletes are safe?

I would follow all Department of Health, Maryland State, and CDC guidelines to keep everyone safe. That would mean wearing masks, social distancing, fewer kids per lane, and wearing face masks when not in the water.

How do you ensure that your swimming teams are up-to-date with all the requirements they need to meet such as practice and competitions?

Every team in the district has three (3) hours of practice time during the regular season. We work hard throughout the season, because what we practice needs to be able to translate into competitions. I tend to focus first on creating endurance in the water, perfecting technique to make swimming more seamless, work on speed with timed drills, and lots of kicking, diving, reaction time, and turns.

What activities and lessons do you apply virtually to keep your student-athletes actively learning?

We spent time assessing footage of major swimming events like the Olympics. We talked about sportsmanship and how swimming can be used outside of school for many years to come. We also talked about the ethics of athletics and how we see ourselves fitting into a team.

Have you had any athletic experience in high school or college? If not, where else?

Yes, I swam for my high school all 4 years and for a MCSL team for more than 10 years.

If you were to give someone advice about anything, what would it be?

To pursue other careers, not just college degrees. It is always good to have a real job that you can fall back on if what you studied in college doesn’t work out. Learn a trade too! Swimming can be that trade, it can take you places all your life and help you bond with other people that love the water too!

Feb. 23, 2021 (Episode #8)

Interviewer: Serena R.

Interviewee: Head Unified Track & Field Coach Gerard Yavo

What expectations, strategies,  and rules will you apply to your student-athletes if returning back to school?

My first priority will be to open a conversation on how my student-athletes have been able to deal with the pandemic, discuss their struggles and their expectations as we come together as a team. With the pandemic still around, I have to continue to reinforce some of the protection guidelines if we are allowed to practice. Secondly, as we get ready for practice, we will have to take it slowly as some students have not been out playing or running for months.What athletic experiences have you had?

I have been the Soccer Assistant and Head Coach in my former high school in Atlanta as well as here at DuVal for many years.

How do you manage virtually when it comes to practices or games? Are there any disadvantages or advantages that come with it?

It has truly been a challenge to get our student-athletes’ population to join those online practice sessions. Not only do they need to log in, navigate through a computer, but most of my student-athletes need the presence of an adult to attend the online activities. For the reasons mentioned above, we did have a very low participation number.

Due to the coronavirus is it hard training your student-athletes? If so, why?

It has been very hard for my student-athletes who are used to their friends and teachers. For a lot of them, being part of the Unified Track & Field Team was an opportunity to be like any other student-athlete, wearing the school uniform was a symbol of pride and accomplishment in itself.

Every coach has a different style when training their athletes. Is there or is there not a difference when training your athletes?

I just try to keep things simple and build from their strengths and weaknesses. For the most part, they do respond well. They actually enjoy it when I challenge them.

Is there anything that gets in the way of your student-athletes when it comes to focusing and coaching?

My student-athletes can get easily distracted or lose focus. They have to remain engaged or find ways to get them to pay attention to what you are trying to coach.

Feb. 17, 2021 (Episode #7)

Interviewer: Saebrin C.

Interviewee: Head Volleyball Coach Ashley Horn

What sports or activities did you participate in when you were in high school?

In High School, I played a few different sports- (Volleyball Grades 9-12, Basketball Grades 9-10 & 12, Softball Grades 9-11, and Track 11th & 12th grade). On a few occasions, I played multiple sports during the same season.

What made you want to start coaching?

During my time in Athletics, I have had some awesome coaches, many of which I still speak to regularly. I think having those great influences in my life definitely had something to do with it.  Coach Butler, Mullins and Payne- Track and Coach Fehr- Volleyball.

Last year, you had a really strong season ending as regional champs. What is one of your favorite memories/highlights from the season?

That’s so tough. We had so many good memories. I would have to say winning the championship at home was my favorite memory. We have overcome tremendous adversity as a team and to win in front of our friends and family was priceless. The Tiger Nation showed us so much love and support all season long, it was greatly appreciated.

What do you think players can do to stay motivated during this time?

  • Set goals (Academic, Personal, Athletic, etc.)
  • Crush those goals and set new ones.
  • Stay connected to your family, friends, and teammates (Accountability)
  • Use your resources to stay connected to your sport (Social Media, Youtube, etc.)
  • Continue to workout- (In accordance with State mandates of course!!)

Why Volleyball? What is so special about it? What does it really mean to you?

Volleyball is a sport that has definitely grown on me over the years. What makes this game so special is that people of all ages can play. You can find this game played all year round in gyms, outdoors, by the experienced and by novice players. Not too many sports can be played over the course of your lifetime, but Volleyball is an equal opportunity sport. Volleyball means a lot to me, I have recently considered doing it full time even though I have much more experience in other sports/activities.

What educational experiences do you apply when coaching your team?

It definitely works to my advantage to be a full-time teacher. I try to organize my team just like I would in my own classroom. I start each school year and season off with goals for the year. I establish class rules (School) and team expectations and so on. Coaches are always assessing, teaching, modifying, and assessing again we just use different terms. Since I teach classes in the same gym that I practice in, it feels natural to run both areas in a similar manner.

Feb. 9, 2021 (Episode #6)

Interviewer: Serena R.

Interviewee: Head Cheerleading Coach Rosslyn Burrs

How do you ensure that your cheerleaders are up to date with all the requirements they need to meet such as practice, and performances?

We ensure that our cheerleaders are prepared by making sure that during practice we observe where their skill level is and share with them our goals for our team. We of course practice but outside of practice, cheerleaders get homework to ensure they are improving if that is their desire.

Due to the coronavirus is it hard training your cheerleaders? If so, why?

During the pandemic we have had to come up with creative ways to keep the cheerleaders engaged. Unfortunately, during our Zoom meetings we were not allowed to be active, however, we encourage our team to conduct Zoom and FaceTime workouts at their leisure with or without their team members.

If returning back to school what rules, expectations, and strategies would you apply to ensure the safeness and protection of your cheerleaders?

When we return back to school we will of course follow the guidelines that the County has set forth. We will also make sure that all cheerleaders are healthy and wearing their masks and social distancing when it’s possible. Cheer is a contact sport, so we will need to be advised on how we can move forward with stunting in our sport.

As a cheerleading coach what made you want to major in something like this, and why at DuVal?

I did not major in Cheer, I majored in Early Childhood Education. I have always loved being a role model and helping children in some way, shape, or form for many years. It honestly could have been any school in Prince George’s County, but I have stayed at DuVal because of the support and leadership from my superiors.

How do you motivate, encourage, and support your cheerleaders to do their best?

The great thing about the DuVal Cheerleaders is that they always want to be the best. When we come into our new season our upperclassmen share what we have done in the past and how we want to improve in the future. When I feel our morale is getting low, we take a step back and check in with our team. We have to reset so that we can all make sure we are still on the path to success. We also have lots of fun!

What athletic experiences have you had?

I cheered for about 12 years. I still dance in shows and different performances in the area. I have been coaching cheer and dance for over 19 years.

Feb. 2, 2021 (Episode #5)

Interviewer: Serena R.

Interviewee: Head Girls’ Soccer Coach Shawn Mitchell

As a Soccer Coach for a female team, what made you want to participate in something like this?

I want to leave a legacy of greatness in young female athletes and ensure that athleticism can be achieved at any level. I want my student-athletes to exercise, stay physically fit, and make sure that they are able to gain lifelong physical fitness skills.

What expectations do you have for your female-athletes if returning back to school?

I expect them to stay physically active during their time away from school with activities of their own choosing. I also expect them to be prepared for a new regimen and process as it pertains to high school athletics in Prince George’s County Public Schools.

How would you describe the work efforts of your female-athletes when it comes to sports?

I would say that they work just as hard or harder than boys.

As a Soccer Coach, what made you determine to be the Coach of a female team?

I want to ensure that young women go into their adult years healthy and to know how to stay & be physically active in a non-competitive arena.

What athletic experiences have you had?

I played football and ran track.

When coaching females, are there specific strategies that are used or is it the same if coaching males?   

I would say it is the same, but different, in the aspect that successful communication plays a major role in motivating each individual student-athlete.

Jan. 26, 2021 (Episode #4)

Interviewer: Justin A.

Interviewee: Head Baseball Coach Russell Brotz

What division did you play baseball in when you were in college?

I actually played hockey at the Division II level. I have always loved baseball and had a passion for it, but in college I took a different path. I did, however, play club baseball when I was in college and enjoyed every second of it. I still have never missed a season of baseball in my life.

What caused you to have love for the sport of baseball, and when?

Since I was young my Dad and I always had a connection for Baseball. I grew up in NJ and loved the Yankees. We had a partial season ticket package so I was able to go to 10 games a year, this is when I really fell in love with Baseball and dreamed of being a Yankee (like most kids). When I first started playing baseball I fell in love with the whole atmosphere, the crowded facilities where 5 or 6 games were going on, the sounds of the crowds cheering, and the smell of the food that went along with all of it. This began my love for the game, but when I truly fell in love was the first time I crushed a ball, it is a feeling like no other and something that is hard to explain unless you experience it for yourself.

How do you help your student-athletes become the best version of themselves on the field. 

To be a competitive team at the 4A level, it takes hard work every single day. My baseball players are pushed to be working year round, competing in Fall Ball programs and off-season conditioning workouts. The idea that there is no true “off-season” is the consistent work it takes to be great and reach our top abilities as an athlete. Additionally, creating a love for the team, a team culture and understanding that it takes an army and not just the 9 players on the field at that time to be successful in this game.

What advice do you give your student-athletes on and off the field? 

My advice to my student-athletes is always the same, school is priority #1, 2, and 3. Baseball and sports are fun, constructive and serve an important purpose in our lives, but getting minimum grades to participate in sports is the wrong way of thinking. It may seem silly now, but being successful in high school can open up doors and opportunities for you that can change your life forever. As a coach I want smart players, they often think more critically and have a greater work ethic. Trust me when I say this, college coaches think the same way! Never stop playing, but take the STUDENT part of student-athlete more seriously.

Jan. 19, 2021 (Episode #3)

Interviewer: Justin A.

Interviewee: Head Football Coach David Kosloski

What division did you play football in college?

Unfortunately, I was not gifted enough to play at the Division I or Division II level. I played OLB/DE and TE in high school and I was not fast enough to play at those levels. My academic goals did not match up with the local Division III schools that showed some interest and I was not interested in going JUCO, so I decided to end my short career as a senior in high school.

What made you decide/motivate you to coach?

I was originally motivated to coach because I love football. Football helped to make me into the man that I am today and I feel that it is my responsibility to give others that same experience and that same opportunity. I was fortunate enough to have some truly amazing football coaches who are still mentors of mine to this day. One of them gave me an opportunity to join his staff while I was still in college and I never looked back. Now, at 31, I would say that it is the players that motivate me to keep coaching. A football team is like a family. We spend 10-11 months out of the year together on an almost daily basis. During the season, I will see my players and coaches more than I will see my family. The relationships that are built are the most valuable part of coaching to me.  My favorite part of coaching is the joy I see when a player makes a big hit, or scores his first touchdown.

What are the expectations you have for the student-athletes you coach?

I expect every student-athlete to give maximum effort in the classroom and on the field. The greatest opportunity that football can give you, is the opportunity for a free education. I expect my athletes to give maximum effort in the classroom first. If I cannot trust you to take care of your responsibilities in the classroom, I cannot trust you on the field. It does not matter what is on your highlight tape, if you are not academically eligible to step on the field. I expect my athletes to conduct themselves as representatives of themselves, their families, and the DuVal High School community. On the field, I expect every athlete to give maximum effort physically and mentally. Every player who steps on that field has dreams of playing in the NFL and effort is one of the attributes that separates those who make the NFL and those who do not.

Jan. 12, 2021 (Episode #2)

Interviewer: Serena R.

Interviewee: AD Robert Langway

As an Athletic Director, what made you want to major in something like this and why at DuVal High School?

For my undergraduate degree, I chose to major in History.  I would have never thought that I would eventually become an Athletic Director, especially while attending college.

Once I started my career in Education, I knew that I wanted to be involved in athletics.  After coaching middle school sports, I began searching around for vacancies at the high school level.  At the time, DuVal High School was one school, in particular, looking for an Assistant Baseball Coach and I chose to give it a shot.  Once hired, I never looked back.  The Tiger’s Den is very special to me.

What expectations do you have for all student–athletes and coaches if returning back to school?

The mission of the DuVal High School Athletic Department is to provide student-athletes with an opportunity to compete successfully in a high school program that is an integral part of their educational experience.  This experience will provide a personalized learning environment with equitable participation opportunities for student-athletes to develop their leadership potential.  Win or lose, the Department will encourage student-athletes to provide a winning effort, exhibit sportsmanship, and demonstrate respect for all.

As an Athletic Director, I insist upon coaches to be good people who model appropriate living for their athletes.  I work with coaches to help them be people of integrity and to make good choices.  The field of leadership in interscholastic athletics can be challenging at times, and I am committed to helping coaches be the best leaders for our young men and women in order to help student-athletes experience their best years during their high school career.  It is my firm expectation that coaches handle themselves as responsible people who model good character and who speak to their athletes with appropriate language while treating them as adults.  I engage in frequent contact with coaches and work with them as a partner in the process of providing student-athletes the best high school athletics experience possible.  I view myself as a partner with coaches because it takes teamwork, including multiple healthy models to imitate, for student-athletes to be able to witness our words and our actions.  In doing so, I further reiterate that athletics is not only about striving to win games and win championships but even more important to build young men and women to be responsible people of good character and who are confident in themselves.

How would you describe the work efforts of the coaches working with their student-athletes?

A successful coach-athlete relationship is much more than achieving wins.  Coaches establish relationships by understanding what motivates or drives each student-athlete.  Coaches focus on communication, positive reinforcement, consistency, availability, and trust in order to develop a strong bond with our student-athletes.

How do you plan to communicate your plans and expectations to administration, teachers/staff, coaches, students, parents, and the community?

Communication is one of many essential parts of an athletic director’s job.  The Athletic Department has an up-to-date website (email/alert system incorporated), is active on social media (FacebookTwitterInstagram), and remains in constant contact with those involved in athletics.

As the Athletic Director, what types of policies and procedures must be in place to ensure a successful athletic program?

Organization, communication, consistency, connectivity, and commitment are just a few elements that play a part in having a successful athletic program.

How do you support coaches and student-athletes?

I have an open-door policy that encourages coaches and student-athletes to express any questions or concerns they may have.  Academic Coaching is available to all student-athletes for academic support.  Additional resources are also made available for all coaches and student-athletes on our athletic website.

Jan. 5, 2021 (Episode #1)

Interviewer: Saebrin C.

Interviewee: Principal Pamela Smith

Is it more difficult to run the school virtually or physically?

I feel that it is more difficult to run school virtually.  I enjoy not having to fight traffic in order to get to work, however it’s difficult to build and nurture relationships virtually.

What are a few tips you can give?

I would provide the tips that I do not follow myself, but I believe are very important.  Take care of yourself, eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep.  Since we have been under COVID-19 restrictions my eating and sleeping habits have altered.  I, like many, spend hours at my computer and I often find myself working 12 or more hours a day.  My New Year’s resolutions will be to take frequent breaks, exercise daily and limit my work day to 8 hours.

*As I type this response at 6:14pm, I have been at my computer since 8 am.

What are some rules and circumstances that apply to sports during COVID? 

As a lover of all sports, sports have been greatly affected by COVID.  Students are able to participate in virtual sports but it does not take the place of in-person sports.  I am not sure what rules will be put in place once we are able to engage in sports again, but I can only assume sports will look differently.

What are your expectations for the control of education after COVID?

I expect that education will continue to look different.  We have learned a lot through virtual learning and many of the lessons have been good.  Administrators and teachers are using technology to engage parents and students in ways that we have not done in the past.  I expect that we will not need to have snow days in the future because we can just convert to online instruction.  I know for some students online learning is a chore, but I can honestly say that some of our scholars are excelling online.   For these online rock stars, I hope the district continues to offer an online option in the future.

Do you think it would be difficult to return to a normal routine due to COVID? 

I think it will be years before we return to “normal”.  However, people are resilient and we adapt very well.  Technology is ever changing and making things easier.  Although it will take time, our new normal will be new and improved.

Do you feel any pressure being principal virtually?

A lot of the pressure I have I place on myself.  I feel like each of the 2,123 students of DuVal are my very own.  And I want the best for each of them as I do for my two children.  With that being said, I want everyone to be academically, spiritually and emotionally prepared.  So yes, the pressure is real.