Greenfield’s Nick Bresciano, Jake Sak learn the coaching ropes

  • Greenfield Post 81 third baseman Jake Sak fields a grounder for the out against Westfield Post 124 at Vets Field in Greenfield. FILE PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield Post 81’s Nick Bresciano throws against Agawam Post 185 at Vets Field in Greenfield. FILE PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 8/1/2022 7:52:28 PM

Until you coach a sport, it’s hard to understand all that goes into getting a team get ready to play.

Just ask Nick Bresciano and Jake Sak. 

The duo — who both graduated from Greenfield High School in 2021 and were teammates in multiple sports during their four years with the Green Wave — grew up playing baseball, but got to experience the game from a different angle this spring. 

The pair joined Kevin Luippold’s staff at Pioneer as assistant baseball coaches this spring, helping lead the Panthers to the MIAA Div. 5 semifinals. Just days after their coaching season ended at Pioneer, Bresciano and Sak went back to competing on the diamond, playing for Luippold and the Greenfield Post 81 American Legion Senior team. 

“I was at Keene State in the spring, I put some feelers out there and Kevin gave me a call asking if I wanted to help,” Sak said. “Once he got the Pioneer job, he asked me to be one of his assistants. It was a no brainer for me. I got to continue learning the game of baseball and with the Pioneer roster, how could I say no? Kevin is also a lifelong friend. He’s a brother to me so it was an easy decision to go coach with him.”

Sak was close enough to drive down and start the season on Luippold’s staff. Bresciano — who attends Lasell College in Newton — had to wait until he was back from school following the spring semester to join up.

“Before the varsity season started he told me he was coaching and that I should come out and watch a game,” Bresciano said. “I went to watch their game against Greenfield. After that he asked me if I wanted to come out and help during practice. I had nothing else to do so I went. I started going more and more and Kevin told me he wanted me to keep coming.”

There’s certainly an adjustment from being a lifelong player to a coach. From setting lineups to physically not being able to participate in practices, it was a big change for the two. 

They had to go from a player mindset to a coaching one. It wasn’t an easy switch to make. 

“It was interesting to see their minds change about the game,” Luippold said. “They’re 19-year-old coaches so at first, when they couldn’t just go out and practice with the team, they were frustrated. They had to get over that. They learned how to talk to players and that they had to earn the players’ respect. All the Pioneer kids loved them. They were always comfortable talking to them.”

For Bresciano, the adjustment took a little time but after settling in, he realized he loved getting to coach up the players. 

“It was a little weird at first,” Bresciano said. “At practices I’d still go out on the field and take infield and outfield. I didn’t consider myself a coach. I was just there and told [Luippold] if he needed me to help out, I’ll do what I can. They had a good thing going and I just wanted to do my part.

“I jumped on board and the next thing I know I’m getting called ‘Coach’ by the players and their family members,” he continued. “It was so cool. I really liked coaching, though. It was cool being able to show the younger kids how to do things better and show them things Kevin had taught me before.” 

Sak, on the other hand, had helped out Greenfield boys basketball coach Angelo Thomas during the winter season, giving him some coaching experience before baseball at Pioneer got going in late March.

“It was different,” Sak said. “I’ve never been in that situation before. Helping Angelo during the basketball season helped make the transition easier. Kevin didn't throw me in the fire right away. He let me grow into my own shoes, allowed me to grow. Once I grew into those shoes, I was able to earn the players’ respect and started giving them pointers and really coaching them up.”

Being one year removed from playing at the high school level and coaching players who were about the same age can present some challenges. Both Bresciano and Sak saw how Luippold, who is just 25 years old himself, was able to find ways to connect to the players while also holding them accountable. They said they took his lead in figuring out how to earn the respect of the Pioneer players. 

“Kevin is effective because even though he’s not as young as me, he connects with us as players,” Sak said. “Seeing Kevin do that while playing for him the last couple years and coaching under him, he set an example for us to follow. Having Kevin there made it easy for me.”

Coaching requires a serious time commitment. From daily practices to travel for games, coaches can wear down quickly if they don’t love the game.

Luippold was impressed with how dedicated his two assistants were, putting in the time and doing whatever was necessary to help the team. 

“Their love for the game grew,” Luippold said. “They cared, they showed up two hours a day, six days a week for practices and games. You have to respect that they were willing to do that at their age to help the team.”

Once June rolled around, the Post 81 season got underway at the same time Pioneer was going on a run in the MIAA Div. 5 tournament. Luippold was coaching both teams while Bresciano and Sak had to split their time between coaching the Panthers and suiting up as players for Post 81. 

The pair would start the day coaching with Luippold at Pioneer practice, then drive down to Vets Field and practice as players under Luippold. How exactly did that dynamic work?

“It was a pretty seamless transition,” Sak said. “Kevin is one of the most transparent coaches I’ve ever had. If I ever had a question about the lineups or anything, he translated it the same way to me whether I was a coach or player. The trust and transparency didn't change. I wasn’t texting him every day figuring out the lineups and the next move we wanted to make. He had to maintain the player-coach aspect.

“Being one of the captains, it made it easier to communicate certain things,” he continued. “Kevin treats everyone as one. His whole philosophy is to have fun and that everyone is aiming for the same goal. The coaches and players might play a different role but they’re all working toward the same goal. That’s why it didn’t feel like that much of a transition.””

“It was a really smooth transition,” Bresciano added. “I was with him all day during the spring and he didn’t treat me any differently during Legion. I don’t look at him as a coach; he’s a close friend at this point.”

After a season in the dugout and seeing the game through a different lens, the two were able to take what they learned from watching from the Pioneer bench onto the diamond. 

They also had a better understanding of why Luippold made certain decisions with the team and the types of adjustments he’d try to make during the game. 

“He would put something in during the middle of a game that we did for Pioneer and worked,” Bresciano said. “In games toward the end of the year when I was helping coach first base, I had the mindset of how Kevin would look at it at Pioneer and implement that in how I coached first. I saw what he was seeing. It changed the way I look at things in a good way.”

Luippold said that both Bresciano and Sak share the same philosophies he does, making it easy to go from being peers coaching together to having to guide them on the field. 

“It’s a cool dynamic,” he explained. “All the decisions I’ve had to make through the summer, they understand them. They know how to ask me questions in a much more formal way. If they ask a question, they’re asking about the team and how to better the team. They have a different kind of insight on how players are reacting to different situations. They know my philosophies. They have a player’s perspective on things but it’s never about themselves. They’re two of the most humble men I’ve met.”

With both Bresciano and Sak now heading into their sophomore years of college, both say they enjoyed their first taste of coaching and see it as something they’d like to continue in the future. 

Next year, expect to once again see them in the Pioneer dugout alongisde Luippold. 

“One-hundred percent,” Bresciano said when asked if he’d want to coach with the Panthers again. “After the season ended, Kevin told me he wanted me back next year. I definitely want to coach again when I get back from school. Being with Jake, [fellow assistant and Kevin’s father] Tom Luippold, Kevin, being part of the team, it opened my eyes to something that I want to do in my future. I’m looking forward to helping coach Pioneer next year. Wherever Kevin goes, I’ll jump on board and sign up to coach with him right away. I’d play for him any day of the week.” 

Sak — who’s a sport management major with a minor in coaching — hopes to one day take on coaching full time. He, too, will look to continue growing with Luippold as a coach. 

“My dream job would be being a college football coach or an NFL coach,” Sak said. “Coaching has always been part of my long term goals. Helping Angelo with basketball and Kevin with baseball, it’s not football but I’ve had the chance to learn the importance of teaching the ins-and-outs of keeping a locker room happy and managing relationships on a personal level. It’s helped my long term goals.” 


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