There are many student jobs at Montclair State University, but for junior Christian Alfano, he feels his job is not like any other on campus.
Alfano, a Family Child Studies major with a concentration in School Settings Grades K-6, is the Student Assistant Coach for the Women’s Basketball Team, a paid position. He is the only male member of the all-female team.
With a clipboard in hand, and always sporting a red tie, Alfano can be found sitting courtside in a red cushiony chair at the Panzer Athletic Center next to coaches Karin Harvey, Courtney Cunningham, and Colleen O’Connell.
The Verona native always had a connection to Montclair State growing up, although he transferred here last year. “I’ve grown up going to Jackals games and different Montclair State games,” he said. “I’m pretty familiar with it even though I transferred in.”
Alfano became involved with the team through a family connection. “My neighbor and a close friend of my dad’s is one of the Women’s Basketball Assistant Coaches at Kean,” he explained. “When he found out I was transferring to Montclair State, he contacted Coach Harvey to see if there was anything I can do in the Athletics Department to help me get acclimated to the campus.”
Luckily for Alfano, there was an opening last year for the Team Manager. Basketball has always been a passion for him, so he was glad that was able to take advantage of the opportunity.
Alfano did a little bit of everything as the Team Manager, but he had his own duties as well. “One of my biggest responsibilities was to do the films for the games,” he said. “Along with that, I also ran the game clock during practices.”
Coming into this season, there was an opening for the Student Assistant Coach, and Alfano felt he was up to do it, so he gladly stepped into the position.
Currently, his basic role is to assist all of the other coaches on the team, but mostly Colleen O’Connell. She is the recruiting coordinator and may not always be around to help out, so that’s where Alfano steps in. “I would say my biggest responsibility is to kind of take a little bit off her plate,” he said. “It makes it a little bit easier on her and then that frees her up to do some other things.”
Throughout his tenure with the team, Alfano has had a great experience learning new things such as different types of plays from the other coaches, but he says it can be challenging at times. He hasn’t played basketball since before high school, and so there are things that he must still become familiar with. “I’ve been okay with the x’s and o’s part of it, but some of the skills are still what get me a little bit,” he mentioned.
Alfano credits O’Connell for helping him with the skills portion. “She does a great job explaining things to me if I have a question, and I have plenty of questions,” he said. It’s not just O’Connell that helps him out, it’s all of the coaches he says. “All of the coaches have taught me a whole bunch, and I am really just learning a lot,” he added.
Alfano also mentions that there can be a couple challenges with his job. One of which is he must balance school work and coaching. “Similar to the student athletes, you got to balance, school, practice, games, and all that,” he said. “One of the other things is trying to find that balance between being a coach and a student because I’m pretty much everyone’s age who’s on the team, so it can be a little strange sometimes.”
Alfano does say though that the coaches and players do a great job of looking past the fact that he is a student. “When I’m on the court, I’m a coach,” he added. “I really appreciate that from all of the coaches and all of the players as well.”
Although he is the token male on the all-female team, Alfano doesn’t think that it affects him or the team at all. “They all just play basketball,” he said. “We all just work around it.”
Despite the challenges, Alfano still feels lucky to be part of such a great team. “Not everyone gets this opportunity, and not everyone gets the opportunity to do it at such a good basketball school as well,” he said.
Throughout this season, Alfano has gotten to know both the players and coaches as people, and feels that has been the most rewarding experience for him so far. He remembers taking a three-and-a-half-hour bus ride up to Ithaca in the beginning of the season, and just talking to the other coaches and players. “Getting to know everyone as person is a big thing for Coach Harvey,” he said.
The players who already know and work with him feel that he is a great person to be around. “Coach Christian has been a great addition to the Women’s Basketball Program,” said Sophomore Forward Alex McKinnon. “He has a great work ethic and is constantly helping the players and coaches in whatever way he can.”
Freshman Shooting Guard Taylor Brown praised Alfano for everything he has done for her so far, this season, such as helping her with certain plays and giving her pointers on the bench. “Coach Christian has been such a huge help to this team right from the beginning,” she said. “He always encouraging us to do our best and does a really great job giving advice on and off the court.”
When it comes to coaching in the future, Alfano wasn’t hesitant to say that he would consider it. He already does a little volunteer coaching at his local high school and feels that his coaching job now can help him in the long run. “I think this is a really good way to learn some different things about basketball specifically, but also how to deal with your team and all kinds of things like that,” he said.
For now, Alfano and the other coaches will continue to guide the team to hopefully another New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship and possibly an NCAA Division III Title. “One of our team goals is to enjoy the season,” he said, and that’s just what he’ll do.