While many area schools have looked wider when filling coaching vacancies already this offseason, Heritage didn’t have to look far in filling their girls basketball coaching vacancy. The Patriots welcomed Nicole Sisson as their new head coach on Wednesday, officially voted in by the school board on April 21.

“I have had an opportunity to be invested in the Heritage community over the past 10 years in a lot of different capacities. The timing was just right,” Sisson said.

Sisson has spent nine years at Heritage and is a Health Education Teacher at the school. She came into the girls basketball program initially as a junior high coach. She rises to the varsity level after being the Patriot junior varsity coach the past seven seasons. She has also coached junior high and high school track at times.

Sisson will become Heritage’s fifth coach in the past 20 seasons following five seasons under Melissa Connor, who led the Patriots to a 13-10 record in 2019-2020 with All-Area player Bree Dossen leading the way. Sisson says she had begun thinking about replacing Connor pretty early on when she knew that there would be a vacancy.

“I knew that if that was something I would step into, I wanted to be called into it. For me, after praying about it, gradually all of the hesitations and the questions melted away and I just knew that God was calling me into it and this was the next step,” Sisson said. “When you have invested in a program for as long as I have, you want to see it continue to progress and move forward.”

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A former college basketball player at Malone University in Canton, Ohio, Sisson spent a year as a student assistant coach for the program after her playing days were over.

There were six players on the 2019-2020 roster that are slated to return. Sophomore Ella Bickel appeared in all 23 games while freshman Claire Bickel appeared in 22 contests. Sisson, having those existing and positive relationships with returning players, sees that as a key during an uncertain spring and possibly summer. After coaching JV, she has a keen idea of where the rising players are at in their development and she also coached the incoming freshmen a couple of months ago.

“I didn’t really imagine being hired while all of this was going on, but it is an opportunity to grow and make the best of things,” Sisson said of the state of things during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Having all of that knowledge, I think allows me to come up with a pretty good plan on how to move them forward skill wise, even in this unprecedented time where we as coaches have to get creative.”

Heritage has won 9 Sectional titles in program history, but none since 1994. The program’s best season came in 1982 when they won a state title. Sisson is hopeful that many changes recently at Heritage in the coaching ranks help continue to reinvigorate not just her program, but all of athletics at the school.

She says that coaches having a presence in the school as teachers, having a good working relationship with each other and common purpose and focus is key.

“We obviously all love our sport, but we all go back to the point where our real motivation is to help, teach, mentor and equip kids for not just when they are on the court or the field, but after they are out of our programs,” Sisson said. “I think that the hiring of our recent coaches, all of us have that in common. I think, as a school, when the heart is in common, it makes it a lot easier to work together and to be the best for kids.”

Photos provided by Nicole Sisson

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