SIDNEY — Jamal Foster has spent recent years helping basketball players improve at schools like Kettering Fairmont, Thurgood Marshall and Wayne among others. Now it’s Sidney’s turn.
Foster, an AAU coach and personal basketball trainer, was hired to coach the Sidney girls basketball team on Monday. He takes over for Lauren Stefancin, who resigned after two seasons.
Foster was among 30 applicants for the position, and though he’s never been a high school head coach before, he felt the time was right to apply for the Yellow Jackets’ opening.
“I saw an opportunity to come home and work with a good group of girls,” said Foster, a 2007 Sidney graduate. “I want girls basketball to be good again. I’m competitive and I really want to do that where it all started for me. I looked at it as a great opportunity.”
Sidney athletic director Mitch Hoying said Stefancin resigned to be closer to home. The Mentor High School graduate went 2-44 in her two years, including last season’s injury-riddled 0-23 season. Hoying said one of Foster’s biggest assets, in addition to knowing the community, is his belief in fundamentals and ability to teach them.
“He has a track record through training and a willingness to focus on the fundamentals,” Hoying said. “I think every coach has certain things they believe in, and when the going gets tough they go to those things. I think when the going gets tough he’s going back to the basics. That’s where we’re a little deficient right now. I think he’s the perfect match for the situation we have in girls basketball.”
Sidney is three seasons removed from its last winning season. Under Megan Mummey, the Yellow Jackets had a stretch of five straight winnings seasons from 2012-13 through 2016-17, including a 24-1 record in 2015-16. Foster hopes to return Sidney those years using his AAU experience and personal training.
Foster got his coaching start with the Miami Valley Charter School middle school boys. He has nine seasons of AAU experience with OBC, Next Level, Nike Lady Gym Rats and Tier 1 Sports. He was also the training and basketball coordinator for the Dayton Salvation Army’s KROC Center for a year.
“Jamal’s been around. He just hasn’t been around as a high school basketball coach,” Hoying said. “Depending on how much knowledge you have about 12-month-a-year basketball, Jamal is a well-known commodity.”
Foster played three seasons of both varsity basketball and varsity baseball for Sidney. It was while training Makira Webster, then a third grader in Sidney and now a junior Fairmont, that his path became firmly set on basketball. Webster’s late mother, Nicole, encouraged Foster to pursue coaching before she passed away in October of 2017.
“She was very pivotal in me getting into training and telling me, ‘Hey, you’re going to be a great coach one day. You can do it.’ She was so motivational to why I took the Sidney job and why I’m so driven to make this thing work,” Foster said. “She had the belief this town could be a basketball town years ago. That’s added motivation because this is what she wanted me to do.”
Doing it in his hometown is additional incentive. Foster plans to open the gym for girls in grades 3-12 as much as possible, similar to what programs like Centerville, Fairmont and Wayne are currently doing. He also plans to use his AAU coaching to push the Yellow Jackets’ pace.
Foster was especially encouraged after meeting the players and parents on Wednesday night.
“Just as much as I want it, I think they want it too. That’s the vibe I got,” Foster said. “I got more excited after I left the meet-and-greet because I felt like there were some players on the same mission that I feel like I’m going to be on.
“I’m humbled. I’m excited. I’m very blessed to get started in the community that we’re a part of. Not many coaches get the opportunity to start their career in the community where they played. They’ll get the best out of me.”
Sidney graduates three seniors from this past season’s team. The Yellow Jackets ended the season with three starters among their five injured players. They had nine players available, including four junior varsity players, for their 78-8 loss to state-power Centerville in the Division I sectional tournament game. The eighth-grade team, though, went 15-2.
“I’m excited,” Hoying said. “Even though we haven’t been successful the last two years we’re not that far away from being pretty competitive and pretty good. We’re looking at this as the beginning of an ascent and I’m excited to be part of it.”
As is Foster.
“Pride, really,” Foster said of returning to Sidney. “Anytime you can come home and help the community and affect these kids and do something you love doing … I don’t know what actually told me this was it for me. But once I saw my alma mater had a position open and I could help I felt like if I didn’t apply I wasn’t doing my part. … Change is coming.”