Nov 14

The Road-Sports Talk With Anthony Bonelli And More

Anthony Bonelli There are so many different types of roads all over the world, some are really steep, some have sharp turns at the end of them and sometimes a road will show you a sign for a detour – which will lead to a road with less traffic.

As the college basketball season gets underway, it is very emotional for me, because I remember a 21-year-old man who went over to the Louis Brown Athletic Center, also known as the RAC, where the Rutgers’ basketball programs practice and play their games, to meet with the Director of Basketball Operations, Jim Carr, to discuss how he could best help the team. That 21-year-old man did not realize what an impact that five minute meeting would have on his life. As a transfer student, in my first weeks at Rutgers, what I was going to do for the rest of my life was the furthest question from my mind.  The question I was asking myself was:  How is life going to be, in this big city of New Brunswick New Jersey, compared to the desolate city of Washington New Jersey that I had never left for more than a month at a time before this journey began? As classes began to get a little bit more demanding than what I was used to – Coach Carr and his family were also dealing with their own struggles. Jim’s son Brayden was suffering from Epilepsy. During this time, Jim and I were not able to meet as much as we wanted to, because he and his wife Natalie were traveling around the United States in search for a cure for their son.

The first hill in my life’s road came in May 2011 when Brayden passed away: it was like I lost a part of me.  Although we hadn’t seen each other a lot over the prior months, Jim became family. On September 30, 2011 the question that once was the furthest thing from my mind had a definite answer.  The inaugural Brayden Carr Foundation Coaches Clinic, was also the day that I knew I wanted to become a coach. When I went into the RAC that day, the same place where that brief introductory meeting took place, I saw a gymnasium full of coaches ready to learn, and ready to raise money for children with Epilepsy.  It really showed me how closely knit the coaching community is, and I wanted to be a part of it.

On March 28, 2012, there was a detour sign. A detour which I never thought, at the time, would lead me out of the traffic. Jim informed me that he was leaving Rutgers to take an assistant coaching job at the University of Rhode Island. I was devastated when he told me, because I felt like I was going to lose that bond that we had. Earlier in the year, Jim and I had discussed an internship opportunity with the men’s basketball program, which I needed to complete in order to graduate. As they say, when one door closes another one flies open.

It was May 1, and I still didn’t know where I was going to do my internship, and I was supposed to start on May 20, as per the internship requirements. On May 4, the detour sign that I thought was only going to lead me into more traffic, gradually started to lead me to a road which was newly paved with no cars. I was hired by The Office of Research and Institutional Technology at Rutgers, to write blogs about how professors could use different technologies in the classroom. I really wasn’t sure how I was going to accomplish this task, because I have very limited use of my hands, which inhibits me from typing on a keyboard.

Honestly, the first couple of weeks of my internship were very frustrating, because I was using a switch with an on-screen keyboard to type, the keyboard program would scan each row of letters on the keyboard. I would have to press my switch with my head when the row was highlighted, and then the keyboard would scan each letter in the row until I would press the switch again to type the single letter. This method took at least one hour to write a 10 word sentence. I spoke with my boss, and said this method was very tedious and slow, and asked him if there was another method we could try. He responded by asking me if I had ever tried voice recognition technology.  I had tried voice recognition technology all my life, but my speech was never intelligible enough for the program to recognize what I was saying. After a long weekend, I went into work not knowing what the coming week had in store for me. Little did I know, it was going to be a life-changing week. My boss instructed me to come into a quiet room; he wanted me to try the voice-recognition technology.  Before we started, he warned me that this might be frustrating at times, because it may take a while for the technology to recognize my voice. To all our surprise, the training session that the program puts the user through before actually using the program went very well. I would say, the accuracy of the program was about 60%, which may not seem like a great percentage, but the fact that it was actually able to recognize my voice was a win in and of itself. Over the next two months, I wrote multiple blogs every week, including six in my final week of interning.

I was at a fork in the road where would I go next? I had this new assistive technology, but the question was, how was I going to use it? Yes, of course, it would make the task of completing my schoolwork easier, but now being in my final year at Rutgers, it was time to think about the future. I still wanted to be a coach, so after Jim headed up north, I continued my work as a student manager under a new advisor. During this time, I would watch games on television, and write scouting reports on our opponents.  I would focus on the opponent’s tendencies on offense and defense. I would provide game reports, which would discuss our performance in our games; and practice reports, which would detail my thoughts on our progression and performance during that day’s practice.

In March of 2013, there was a traffic light on my road that was bright green; I was hired by Drew University, to be a Volunteer Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach. My responsibilities as a volunteer assistant coach were similar to my responsibilities at Rutgers. I wrote daily practice reports, game reports, and scouting reports. I would also give immediate Anthony Bonellifeedback during games and practices. During the season, I would occasionally have to stop writing a report, because I would have to ask myself if this was really happening. You might say why, your responsibilities were no different than they were at Rutgers, this is true, however now I was not required to complete any schoolwork, my sole focus was how to make Drew University’s Men’s Basketball Program better. I learned a lot during my year as a Ranger, both about basketball, and about life. I learned how to take things for what they are.

When driving to a familiar place a person often does not need any sort of direction. This was not the case – as I assumed the position of Assistant Varsity Baseball Coach at my alma mater Warren Hills Regional High School.  I have been told that I have an eye for detail, and that this would certainly help me in my new role. One of my primary responsibilities was to evaluate each individual player, and determine what their strengths and weaknesses were. As I was evaluating the players as individuals, as well as the team as a unit, I was constructing my most important evaluation.  This evaluation would change my life and how I looked at it. The evaluation was on me, not only as a coach, but as a person. The 2014 Warren Hills Varsity Baseball Program could best be described as a family, every time an individual player was down; there was always another member of the team right there to boost their teammate’s morale. As a coach, with every different staff that you work with, you learn different strategies and different ways to approach the game you are coaching. I did learn some baseball strategies, but those were not the most important strategies I learned during my first year as a Blue Streak Baseball Coach. The most important strategies I learned were strategies that would help me when dealing with adversity in my life. I learned about self-discipline; when to say something; and, when to just take a mental note. Children often learn from their elders, but in this case a 25-year-old man, learned from a group of 16 and 17 year old young men. I would say this traffic light on my road, was never a brighter shade of green than it was after that season.

My Storm Arrow model wheelchair now sits idle, as I wait to make the journey down to Flemington New Jersey, and Hunterdon Central Regional High School to start the engine on a new opportunity. On November 24, I will officially begin my work as the Girls’ Co-Varsity Basketball Assistant Coach I am extremely excited to see what type of road this new opportunity will lead me towards, I hope the traffic light on my life’s road will continue to shine bright green and continue to get brighter as the year goes along. To be continued…

1 comment

  1. Jan Onieal

    Anthony. This was beyond incredible. Your story and the use of traffic, roads, traffic lights, etc., showed what a gifted writer you are. Phenomenal. You are wished only the best as you continue your journey. You are one awesome and inspiring individual who should not ever be underestimated. 🙂

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