Avon High School Welcomes Two New Basketball Coaches
Photography Provided by Amy Payne & Lifetouch Photography
People debate whether love at first sight is real, but Drew Schauss knows that it’s true because he experienced it firsthand. Growing up in high school gymnasiums watching his father coach varsity basketball, he fell hard and fast, as sports like basketball and netball always got his attention and learning on how big is a netball court it was important too for trainings.
“Basketball is my love at first sight,” says Schauss, who was an all-state star in the sport, earning a scholarship to play at Brevard College in North Carolina, then later at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Indiana.
For six years he was the assistant coach at a small college, and then he became the head boys basketball coach at Logansport High School until he recently landed the head boys basketball coaching job at Avon High School (AHS). He applied for the position because he was intrigued by the amount of growth Avon has experienced in recent years. The school itself has expanded tremendously in the last 20 years and is projected to grow more in the next 10 to 15 years.
“You don’t often have the opportunity to take over a program that’s experiencing that kind of growth, and then you add to that the number of successful athletics,” says Schauss, noting that a lot of the programs have been successful, particularly football, volleyball, baseball, track and swimming. Basketball has been on the cusp for a while, with the team having won a sectional in 2017.
When it comes to building a successful team, one of the first things Schauss does is demonstrate the importance of community. Therefore, he and his players cheer on other Avon sports by attending games as a team. Attending these games, matches and meets not only builds camaraderie, but also shows the Avon student body that everyone on the basketball team supports them.
When his players are perfecting their own skills, they give it their all, always leaving it all out on the court. Schauss enjoys seeing their hard work pay off.
“People don’t see the practices, the workouts and what they do in the weight room, so to watch these students go out and perform well at a high level – I love the excitement on their faces,” Schauss says.
Another new hire at AHS athletics is the girls basketball coach, Will Staal, who grew up on the north side of Indianapolis. He got involved in sports early on, playing in recreational leagues, and developed a love of coaching when he was in high school.
When Staal was in elementary school, his father, who was an Indianapolis police officer, worked the NCAA Final Four in 2000. Before the games started, his dad asked him which school’s T-shirt he would like. Staal said Wisconsin. It turned out that the Badgers shirts were sold out, so his dad brought home a Michigan State Spartans shirt.
“MSU ended up winning the national title,” Staal says. “It’s weird to think that if they’d had an adult small or a youth large in Wisconsin, I might not have been a Michigan State fan.”
Still, deep down he’s a Hoosier through and through, and since he had aspirations to coach basketball, there is no better place for him to be. His coaching career has taken him all over the state, including Westfield, Fishers, Waldron, and Terre Haute South Vigo high schools. He enjoyed those coaching gigs, but when he saw that AHS was hiring, applying was a no-brainer.
“I’m not lying when I say I feel like I have the best job in the state, in terms of possibility,” he says.
He was pleased to join the faculty at the end of May in 2021 so that he had June and July with the team, providing them with a firm foundation going into the fall and the regular season. All summer long they had workouts and shootouts, as well as two weeks of running a kids camp.
“It was an immersive experience,” he says. “You can’t win a state title or sectional title in the summer, but you sure can lose one.”
Both Staal and Schauss are all about creating a positive atmosphere that will enable their athletes to make lifelong connections and memories.
“People won’t remember our record, but they’ll remember how our team treats people,” Staal says. “As for the students, they’ll remember how they felt hanging out as a team and that’s the biggest part.”
Building a high school program includes getting involved with students well before they enter high school. That’s why Staal and his colleagues coach the Indy Girls Hoops League, a travel basketball team for third- through eighth-grade girls.
“That’s what you have to do to be successful or even have a chance to compete in our conference,” Staal says. “You’ve got to be proactive in participating in youth programs in order to build that foundation.”
Both Staal and Schauss were hired at the end of what, in many ways, was a stressful year. The pandemic did, however, provide a fresh perspective on life, sports and the way the two work together.
There are many social and emotional skills learned in team and individual sports, but throughout the pandemic students had to spend a big chunk of their academic and social lives in front of a screen.
“When our student-athletes got quarantined, they were not just missing school,” Staal says. “They were missing the ability to be with their friends.”
Spring 2020 athletes missed out on fellowship, problem solving, and many lessons that are the bedrock of high school athletics. Now coaches are seeing students come in who need to be caught up in these areas.
“If anything, the pandemic has taught coaches to take a step back, breathe and give people grace,” Staal says. “We tend to look at players as athletes, but they are still growing children. I’m glad that the spotlight has been put on their mental well-being because our job, first and foremost, is to keep these children safe.”
“At times you’ve got to remind yourself that the maturity level is not always there,” he says. “They are going to make mistakes, but even though they may do the wrong thing or make a silly choice, at the end of the day these kids want to be here.”
The coaches are eager for the Avon community to see the brand of basketball that they are putting together.
“I think people will enjoy watching us play,” Schauss says. “They’ll be able to see the energy and effort the team brings. This is a really likable group of athletes that people will get on their feet and cheer for.”