Coaching at Pierce: a team effort

Hannah Pederson, Reporter

Kevin Davis- Baseball

Baseball has always been a part of Kevin Davis’s life, but when he hit his senior year at Renton High School, things became more complicated. Davis’s high school baseball team was low ranking, but his personal ability was significantly higher up on the ladder, according to Davis. When it came time to move to the next phase of his life, Davis found it difficult to get on a team due to his high school’s low rank.

Davis had always looked forward to going into professional league baseball, but this bureaucratic block ended up being the reason why he is where he is today.

He made it into professional baseball which, to his surprise, wasn’t to his liking.  So when he was released in 2009, he decided to pursue coaching. Davis was hired as an assistant coach for a division one program in South Carolina where he worked for a year before moving back to Washington.

Davis has been coaching at Pierce for four years, and when he started on the program, it was reminiscent of his old high school team. Davis worked to find athletes with a “hard hat and lunchbox mentality and a chip on their shoulder,” using their frustration from being placed on a low ranking team to fuel their success.

Davis coaches because he doesn’t want his athletes to have to go through all the trials and tribulations he did, and so far he’s landed 19 of his athletes scholarships to schools with division I, II and III teams.

Bill Mendelson- Men’s Basketball

Bill Mendelson, or Coach Mendy, as his team refers to him, views athleticism as a way of life.

Mendelson’s love for sports began around high school, when he played basketball, baseball and football.

Mendelson found his niche when he reached college at Western Washington University. As a member of his school’s football team, Mendelson began taking coaching clinics in order to better understand the logic behind his coaches plays and training tactics.

After spending his college years as an unofficial assistant coach, Mendelson graduated and in 1975, found an official position as a student teacher at Sehome High School in Bellingham. He gained experience and developed a coaching style that landed him at Pierce, where he’s been coaching the Raider’s men’s basketball team for 11 years.

“If you’re around long enough, you’ll win games,” Mendelson said.

Mendelson loves basketball because it’s competitive, and impresses that school of thought on his athletes. He says he demands a lot from his team, but those expectations have produced an award winning basketball machine, running on competition and the will to improve.

Basketball has been a pillar in Mendelson’s life for a while, but even more so after retiring from teaching physical and driver’s education at North Thurston High School for 39 years. Now he divides his time between the Raiders, his family, his health company Isagenix and fixing up properties to rent.

Brian Purugganan- Women’s Basketball

Brian Purugganan, coach for women’s basketball, believes he’s found his true calling.

He views coaching as a way to help the team not only with their athletic pursuits but also in their daily lives.

Purugganan emphasizes that with student athletes, school comes first. His team strives to maintain an average GPA of 3.1, which some students may find difficult when they’re juggling courses, training for the season and handling their personal lives.

“Winning is fun,” Purugganan said. “Winning is why you step on the court.”

For Purugganen, it’s all about the little victories. His love of coaching is fueled by seeing his players succeed on and off the court. Some of Purugganan’s athletes moved to Pierce from as far as Hawaii to further themselves and work for their future, and he says that’s what he truly admires.

“It’s all about the team, but the team needs a collective of unique individuals to be successful,” Purugganan said.

When he started coaching for Pierce six years ago, he said that his team was in the gutter. The joint efforts of him and the athletes brought their ranking up to the middle of the pack, and they plan to keep climbing.

Mark Edmonston- Softball

Coach Mark Edmonston found his penchant for coaching in an untraditional manner.

He says he’s always had a natural affinity for coaching, which he put to use when he was an officer on the Tacoma Police Department, specializing  in defensive training, hiring and background research.

All of that experience came into play when his interest in full-on coaching was sparked by his daughter joining a fastpitch team. At that moment, Edmonston said he fell in love with coaching, the passion of the players and the sport.

From that point on, he began learning to become a coach. He trained under three coaches, to whom he attributes all of his successes: Coach Dimiro, who taught him program management, recruiting, practice organization, Coach Hilton, who taught him outfield and Coach Brosart, who taught him hitting, and from whom he inherited the Raiders in 2008.

Edmonston’s teaching background, combined with the knowledge he gained from those three coaches produced the style of coaching that made Raider’s Softball a high ranking team in the NWAC (Northwest Athletic Conference). The secret to his success is focusing on the individual, not the team.

The dynamic between Edmonston and his team is electric. There’s a mutual respect rooted in the knowledge that he always has what’s best for his athletes at heart.

Kailey Nobriga, a junior on the Puyallup campus, came all the way from Hawaii last year specifically to join the team coached by Edmonston.

Shawnna Sessler and Greg Finel- Volleyball

Coaches Shawnna Sessler and assistant coach Greg Finel are the duo who has been the driving force behind the Raider’s success.

They pieced together a high functioning team out of what had been a conglomerate of complete strangers three weeks ago. But it’s as clear as the lettering on the back of their team shirts, they’re not just a bunch of athletes working together for a few seasons – they’re a family.

Besides the warm atmosphere that pervades the team, their domination on the court can be attributed to Sessler and Finel. The coaches have this good cop, bad cop vibe that simultaneously lets players know where they need to improve and gives them the inspiration to do so.

But no matter how much they’ve impacted the team,  Sessler and Finel credit everything to the girls. They were awe struck when the team first started practicing together. They saw the players’ drive to achieve beyond their best.

Sessler and Finel believe they have accidently formed a literal “dream team,” one they say people need to keep an eye on in the future.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Hannah Pederson

Coaching at Pierce: a team effort

by Hannah Pederson time to read: 5 min