Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Meet Sol Henik, the new Acalanes coach

In contrast to those who never find their fit or come to it after much trial and error, Sol Henik learned early on what was to be his call of duty. During his junior year in high school, at Lyman High School, located in Longwood, Florida, he began tutoring elementary school kids and thus began his march towards becoming a high school teacher and coach.

That his father was a multi-sport coach as well as social worker and his mother a longtime nurse, Henik being a member of the helping professions probably was boosted by a DNA jumpstart.

Holder of a Master's of Science in Education Leadership, he has taught high school for 16 years. While Henik will be continuing his teaching at-risk students at Prospect High in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, he recently became the boys head basketball coach at Acalanes High after four years of heading the boys program at Las Lomas High.

So why the move to Acalanes High? "I live in Lafayette, actually right around the corner from Acalanes. The opportunity opened up and I knew this was the right time to make a move. Here I am in a place I can finally call home where I can make a difference in the community I live in and where my kids will eventually go to school. When I go to a coffee shop, people already have stopped me to say 'hey, you're the new coach at Acalanes.' It’s a great feeling. Where the Warriors may have strength in numbers, Acalanes has ‘Strength in Community.’ The school has a great administration and great community support." Henik also likes the greater intimacy. "There's 25,000 people here versus 67,000 in Walnut Creek."

Although Henik won't be an on-campus instructor, he has Chris Huber, who teaches and coaches at Acalanes, as his point man. "He's a great guy on campus," Henik said. Huber has an extensive coaching background including 15 years running the El Cerrito High boys basketball program (he is a member of the El Cerrito High Athletic Hall of Fame), close to that number assisting at Acalanes as well as a couple of seasons leading the Contra Costa College men's hoops program.

Growing up in Orlando, Florida, Henik had a desire to go elsewhere. After high school, he traveled across the country to play for Tom Mitchell at Santa Rosa Junior College. Mitchell is now a well-known sports psychologist in the area. San Diego State was next. "I walked on there but didn't make the team." Henik then came north to earn his master's at Cal State East Bay.

But he was hooked on team sports, nurtured by having good coaches along the way. With coaching being teaching outside the usual academic classroom, he jumped into basketball skills training and instructing in government, algebra, economics and English, followed by his eventual leap into high school hoops instruction.

Henik is a proponent of youth hoops being a glass half full, or more. "Basketball is evolving. The game is getting better as are the players and coaches. An emphasis on ball movement and unselfishness are good things. So is the working on fundamentals and weightlifting. Living in Lafayette, I see youth groups and personal trainers emphasizing fundamentals. I'm a huge advocate of the jump stop, the jab step and the pump fake."

What will fans see from his Acalanes team? "There's no recruiting so you might have to change offenses and defenses every year. A coach has to devise a plan based on the strengths and weaknesses of his team. We will teach the principles of defense and toughness--never giving up or quitting on a single play."

About teaching toughness, Henik used the analogy of his young daughter learning to ride a bike. "When she falls down, the instinct is to run over but she pulls herself up and gets back on the bike. This teaches grit and perseverance. For his Acalanes players, "it will start in the weight room because the psychological effect in incredible. You start lifting and you feel you have an edge."

Having posted an overall 9-18 record, 2-10 in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League in 2015-16, Acalanes will be battling in a new league against the likes of Campolindo, Miramonte and of course his old school, Las Lomas. The competition will be a challenge.

Making a difference in the lives of his pupils, be it in a formal school setting or the gymnasium, as a teenager or now as a thirty-something, that's Sol Henik's calling.

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