Sunday, July 03, 2022

Sports Person of the Week

Neuweiler Looking to Guide the Nighthawks to New Heights


Jessica Neuweiler was recently named the new head coach of the North Haven girls’ basketball team, bringing a great deal of experience as both a player and a coach to the Nighthawks.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Neuweiler

Jessica Neuweiler was recently named the new head coach of the North Haven girls’ basketball team, bringing a great deal of experience as both a player and a coach to the Nighthawks. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Neuweiler)

A new head coaching hire always provides excitement and the hope for a successful future. As she begins her tenure as head coach of the North Haven girls’ basketball team, Jessica Neuweiler feels excited about the prospect of guiding the Nighthawks to success on the hardwood.

Jessica joins the North Haven girls’ hoops program with a wealth of experience both playing and coaching basketball. Jessica is eager for the opportunity to teach the lessons that she’s learned during her career to the current generation of North Haven players.

Jessica’s love for basketball started taking shape at a young age. Growing up in East Haven, Jessica began playing the sport in the town’s Biddy Basketball League. Jessica felt an instant connection to the court and went on to play at St. Mary in Branford, where she reached the 1,000-point milestone, becoming the only player in the school’s history to do so.

Jessica then enrolled at Sacred Heart Academy (SHA) and played basketball for four seasons, serving as a captain for three years, while earning All-SCC Quinnipiac honors and being named to the Connecticut Tap-Off Club’s All-County Team.

Jessica went on to play college basketball at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jessica moved to Boston and earned her master’s in integrated marketing communication at Emerson College. Following seven years in the city, Jessica decided to return to her roots and begin a career in coaching.

“I decided that, right before I turned 30, that I wanted to move back home to Connecticut, and that’s really where the coaching began,” says Jessica, a Wallingford resident. “I knew right away once I was home that I wanted to get back involved into Biddy Basketball in East Haven, because that’s the program that I started in and was so important to me. That’s really where coaching began.”

After a short stint back in East Haven, Jessica coached the JV basketball team at SHA, returning to a place that had made such a strong impact on her during her playing days. Following her tenure at SHA, Jessica was named the head coach of the girls’ basketball program at Plainville High School. Jessica instilled a winning culture to a team that had gone 3-17 in the season prior to her arrival. In her five seasons at Plainville, Jessica coached the program to its first back-to-back winning seasons in more than 10 years, as well as a share of a division championship and three State Tournament berths.

Jessica’s experience in Plainville proved highly rewarding as her squad saw success on the court. During her tenure at the school, Jessica coached a player who is deaf. It was a life-changing experience for Jessica as she and her players learned sign language and other skills that they never thought they would. Jessica feels fortunate to have had that experience.

“It was the first time I had the opportunity to coach a player who had a disability and, to me, I saw it as a bigger opportunity of this is bigger than basketball,” Jessica says. “That experience forever shaped me in terms of what we do every single day as coaches. There’s so much more to it than just the X’s and O’s. That experience of teaching my players something much bigger than basketball will forever stay with me.”

Jessica now takes the reins of a North Haven team that finished with a record of 10-13 last season. Jessica feels that her days of playing basketball will be an asset for the program as she emphasizes her philosophies to the Nighthawks.

“Especially coaching girls’ basketball, I think I bring a lot to the table in the sense that I was in their shoes a number of years ago, being a high school female athlete,” says Jessica. “I try to really carry myself as someone who my players can see as a mentor. It’s bigger than the game a lot of times, and I think those things are lessons that I hope to always have interwoven into my program.”

Jessica is planning on bringing some of her old tricks to her new program. Jessica’s focus for year one is to build a foundation for the team based around accountability, but she also wants North Haven to adhere to a motto that she’s followed since her early days of coaching.

“In my program, one of the things that I always tell my players in every single huddle that we have, we always say the phrase ‘We Believe,’” Jessica says. “I’ve always done that since the first day that I’ve coached, and why it’s so important to me and my team is that they have to believe in themselves.”

Jessica is also a big believer in the importance of solid relationships between the players and the coaching staff. Jessica feels that with trust comes growth, and she’s looking forward to fostering that growth on a Nighthawks’ squad that’s bringing back a nice mix of veteran players and promising up-and-comers.

“I’m very excited to be going into a program where they didn’t graduate any seniors. All of the players from last year are returning,” says Jessica. “We have a young program. For me, that’s exciting. I want to lay that foundation this year and implement that discipline and accountability.”

Jessica has her sights set on ushering a new culture for the program both next season and beyond. Jessica feels thrilled about the chance to coach basketball in North Haven and can hardly wait for her first season to get started. Jessica wants to help the Nighthawks reach new heights on the basketball court, while inspiring the younger athletes in town to play for the team when their time comes.

“I’m looking forward to that development over the next number of years,” says Jessica. “I think North Haven, for me, was very exciting. I want to build a program that those younger athletes aspire to be a part of, and that’s really my goal. I want to give our players a great experience, one that they look back on in a positive light.”

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