With so much happening at Lancaster Country Day, the timing is perfect for Jonathan Shultz to become a high school basketball head coach.
Fresh off a 19-8 record, an appearance in the District Three Class 1A title game and an opening-round win in the PIAA tournament, the Cougars’ boys program is moving into the Lancaster-Lebanon League for the upcoming season.
So when Curt Butler did not return after last season’s success, Shultz decided to apply, and was hired to keep things moving in a positive direction — a challenge he welcomes.
“When I went in for the interviews, they talked about wanting to have a push in athletics now that they are joining the league,” Shultz said.
The 1993 Lancaster Catholic grad served eight seasons as a junior varsity head coach/varsity assistant under Brad Herr at Conestoga Valley. He is thrilled to be a part of the Cougars’ inaugural L-L season.
“I coached in the league and played in it. To be able to lead the Country Day boys program as they join the L-L is a great opportunity and an honor,” he said. “It’s a great thing and it gives Lancaster Country Day a footprint in the sports community.”
An eighth-grade social studies teacher at Wheatland Middle School in Lancaster City, Shultz spent last season as head coach at Reynolds Middle School.
Shultz met with his new squad this week and immediately liked what he saw.
“They are a hard-working, dedicated group of young men and they continue working towards that success,” he said.
The Cougars will be in the newly created Section Five, along with Annville-Cleona, Lebanon Catholic, Lancaster Mennonite, Columbia and Pequea Valley.
“We will be the new kid on the block, along with Octorara,” Shultz said. “(The kids) are not familiar with the league. They are going to be going to different gyms, going against different players; but once that ball is tossed up, all that doesn’t matter.”
With strong numbers for such a small school, the Cougars have a full JV squad as well.
Shultz said that coaching in a school like Country Day provides an opportunity to build a program down through the levels.
“It’s a building that goes K through 12,’ he said. “It’s very important we start developing these players at a young age. Incorporate them into the program with camps and clinics and that creates a family atmosphere. I want the younger players to look up to the high school players.”
One thing Shultz of which is well aware is Country Day’s academic reputation. It’s another reason the job was so intriguing for him.
“I am a teacher first, and look at athletics as an extension of the classroom,” he said. “They are growing as young men, whether on the court or a field trip that may force them to miss a game. I understand that.
“I am going to hold these kids to a high standard. Passing classes is not good enough.”
With a mentor in Herr, and support of his wife, Kristin, Shultz is ready.
“I learned a lot from Brad. I would not be in the position I am today without him,” Shultz added. “(Kristin) is very excited and has been very supportive throughout this whole process. She knows the amount of time it takes and she is sacrificing as well.”