By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The path to becoming a coach is different for everyone.
For Ashley Callihan, it took an unfortunate injury for her to realize her passion for coaching.
As a senior playing for Marietta College, Callihan tore her ACL and lateral meniscus during practice the night before her first game of the season.
“I was devastated,” Callihan recalls.
Her role as team captain, though, allowed her an opportunity to lead a different way than what she could have delivered to the team as a player on the court.
Essentially, her career as a coach began right then.
“I still felt the responsibility to lead and make a difference in the program,” said Callihan, who was announced as the Southeast High School girls basketball new coach last week. “My coach took notice of this and suggested that I look into becoming a coach someday.”
That coach was Kole Vivian, who nominated Callihan for the “So You Want to be a Coach” program that is presented by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and is dedicated to help prepare players for a career in coaching.
“I had previously thought about coaching, but it was not until that opportunity that I knew it was something I wanted to pursue,” Callihan said.
The pursuit has become a passion.
And after three years as an assistant at Baldwin Wallace and two years as a varsity assistant under Southeast head coach Craig Nettleton, Callihan now has her own program, with student-athletes that she has spent the last two years developing strong relationships with.
A program that is as rich with girls basketball history and championship-level success as any in Portage County.
Since the 2014-15 season, the Southeast girls basketball program has posted a record of 148-56 (.726 win percentage).
Callihan, who is also a seventh-grade teacher at Southeast Middle School, replaces Nettleton, who announced his resignation at the conclusion of the 2022-23 season. He is retiring from his administrative role as the Southeast Middle School principal and was recently named as the new girls basketball head coach at North Canton Hoover.
“Coach Nettleton is an amazing coach, but an even better person, and I have learned so much from him these past two seasons,” said Callihan, whose list of coaches that have impacted her career is full of influential people (Mogadore youth coaches Eric Barker, Mike and Ann Murphy and Don Whitmer; Mogadore High School coaches Tom Pollock, Jen Ritch, George Tompkins and Dan Caslow; travel coaches Joe Jakubick, Greg Whitmer and Mike May; college coaches Stacia Rosen, Kole Vivian, Scott Starter, Kayla Sileo, Maggie Miller Collins, Cheri Harrer and Cody Hartzler).
A little bit of all of them have helped Callihan into a coach, but not it is her turn to lead the next generation of Pirates.
“I cannot express how excited I am to take over the Southeast program. It is an honor and a privilege to lead and be part of a program that has such a longstanding tradition of excellence,” Callihan said. “I am looking forward to leading these talented, driven and incredible young women. I have a passion for coaching basketball and leading student-athletes and am equally passionate about this school district. I am grateful for the opportunity to have both of these passions align.”
Callihan’s Pirates will get to work this summer through a variety of shooting and lifting sessions, open gyms, as well as participating in the West Branch Summer League and the WTCBCA Summer Slam Shootout. She will keep contunity as a priority in the program, keeping a staff that mirrors what was in place with Hannah Harnar, Lisa McCann, Mike Stiles and Dean Dunlavy.
Callihan described her coaching philosophy this way:
“I believe that coaches are called to develop student-athletes into all they can be. I want to put players in the best possible position to be successful, to allow them to play the game they love while being in pursuit of excellence on and off the basketball court. As a coach, you are called to do so much more than just win games. It is your job to develop them into young men and women that will lead the next generation.”