Being a student-athlete in college isn’t easy.
Classes, practices and games can make college a stressful time for many athletes.
For Central York graduate Jared Wagner, though, he’s adding something else on his plate that is rare for a college athlete — coaching.
Wagner, a junior guard at York College, wants to be a college basketball coach after he graduates, and he’s getting a head start this winter as an assistant for the Eastern York boys’ basketball team.
“For how this will all help me, I’ll already have a boatload of experience with coaching at different programs,” said Wagner, who also coaches a York Ballers AAU team in the spring/summer.
Eastern first-year head coach Justin Seitz, who knows Wagner through the Ballers, said the former Central York standout has been a valuable addition to the coaching staff.
“I know Jared one day wants to be a college basketball coach,” said Seitz, whose team was 4-1 entering Tuesday's action. “I know he has a passion for basketball and coaching, and I thought he’d be a huge asset to our program and that it would help him with his future.”
Wagner’s start in coaching: Like many basketball junkies in York County, Wagner is a York Ballers alumnus.
After playing with the Ballers growing up and graduating from Central, Wagner enrolled at York College, where he is now a starting guard scoring 15.6 points per game.
“I coached Jared since he was in fifth grade,” said York Ballers program director Pat McGlynn. “He’s a very tenacious, aggressive basketball player on the floor. … He has a lot of respect with the AAU kids, and a bunch of them also play at Eastern.”
Two years ago, Wagner approached McGlynn about being an assistant coach for the Ballers. Last year, Wagner took over his own team, leading the 2021 graduating class squad.
“Since that summer, I’ve matured so much as a person,” Wagner said. “It’s something that just happened, and it’s amazing to look back at my freshman year and see that a lot of that has to do with being mature around kids and parents.”
Coaching at Eastern: When Seitz, who also coaches for the Ballers, took over at Eastern before this season, he approached Wagner about his interest in being an assistant on his staff.
“I got to see him as a young coach and how he handled the players,” Seitz said. “There isn’t a big gap in age, and that wasn’t a problem for him."
Wagner said he’s grateful for the coaching opportunities Seitz and McGlynn have provided him, calling both men “mentors.”
“(Justin) and Pat have both been the guys I’ve learned a lot from,” Wagner said. “Once we thought coaching at Eastern would help me learn more, it was something I definitely wanted to pursue.”
Making it work: Wagner can’t make it to every Eastern game and practice, obviously. His main priorities are his classes at York and his role on the Spartans’ team that is 6-4 this season.
He is, though, able to make it to about 70 percent of the practices and 17 of the Golden Knights’ 22 regular-season games, because the Spartans practice in the afternoon, while the Knights practice in the evening. The teams also usually play games on different days.
“We weren’t sure how it would work out or how much I’d be able to make it at first, but it’s worked out,” Wagner said. “It’s been a lot of fun so far.”
With how close Wagner is in age to Eastern’s players, Seitz has Wagner take the lead for about 10-20 minutes during most practices to establish Wagner as a coach on the staff.
“Jared is a unique individual,” Seitz said. “He’s so mature for his age. He’s very focused and determined. The same passion he has as a player is what he brings to the floor as a coach. His competitiveness in all aspects of his life separates him, and that’s one of the reasons why I’d want to bring on someone of his age to my staff.”
Improving as a player: Coaching at Eastern, said York College head coach Matt Hunter, has made Wagner a better player.
“I think it has definitely helped,” Hunter said. “It allows him to see the game a little bit differently. It helps slow things down for him. He’s able to evaluate things a little bit differently.”
Wagner said coaching allows him to compartmentalize his life in a positive way, not letting a bad practice or game for the Spartans fester in his mind.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself as a player, and at times I get stressed out,” Wagner said. “Coaching is kind of my time away from being a basketball player, where I stop worrying about myself and focus on Eastern. If I didn’t shoot well the night before, I then go to Eastern and I am only worried about them.”
Future in coaching: Right now, though, Wagner, who plans on being a graduate assistant after he finishes his sports management degree at York, said he will take advantage of his final two seasons with the Spartans before moving onto his coaching career.
“I can have the rest of my life to coach,” Wagner said. “I only have a year and a half left to play.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that Seitz isn’t excited for Wagner’s future in coaching.
“There’s no question it’s going to happen for him,” Seitz said. “He’s always in a gym and he’s always learning. That’s why he’s going to be a great coach.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at email@example.com.