united name and colors slide

After spending the majority of your young life in school every day, wouldn’t you want to stay away from school as much as possible? You could be getting rid of all the stress of school work, sports, extracurriculars — and not to mention the teenagers! What kind of person would want to do that all over again?

That kind of person is Matthew Rodkey. This past summer, he was hired to be the head boys’ varsity basketball coach at United High School, and he is more than excited about it. This season will definitely be a test of his coaching abilities, considering he hasn’t coached basketball in several years. Also, the global pandemic going on doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon — however, Rodkey has a very positive attitude despite the circumstances.

“We are just grateful to be able to play this year. These kids deserve it, and we will be prepared for whatever happens,” Rodkey said about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rodkey has always had a passion for teaching, coaching and helping others improve. He started to coach junior high football at United, which is his alma mater, right after he graduated with the class of 1996. At 18, he was just starting out as a coach. Simultaneously, he attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he would graduate with a teaching degree in mathematics.

He immediately accepted a teaching position at Homer-Center High School and taught algebra for nearly 15 years. Rodkey met many important people during his teaching career. After many years in the classroom, Rodkey was hired as the dean of students at Homer-Center but would then become the assistant principal in 2017.

Although he made a strong impact on students both as their teacher and as an administrator, Rodkey has made an even bigger impact as their coach.

He has been an assistant coach on Homer-Center’s football team for the majority of his career, where he helped their team win two District 6 championships. Rodkey has also had great success as the head coach of Homer-Center’s track and field team, taking numerous trips to state championships, national championships and even to the longest-running track meet in the United States, the Penn Relays.

On top of this, he has taken over as the head cross country coach at Homer-Center as well. One might say he is pretty diverse in the world of coaching.

Not only is he involved in varsity sports, but Rodkey was also an important part of the United Youth Basketball League for many years. He led young athletes of various ages, both boys and girls, to many tournament championships.

After his career in youth sports ended, he accepted the position of the girls’ junior high head basketball coach at United, which he held for three years. During his final year in that position, Rodkey led the girls’ team to an undefeated season with a record of 18-0.

Through countless interviews and praise from many people, Rodkey has received the attention and appreciation that is a reflection of his ability to coach, however, he never can keep all the credit to himself. He says that the success of the team “is a reflection of the players’ abilities and their attitudes on the court, not just the coach.”

Rodkey also believes that he is able to coach the way he does because of the influence on him from his high school basketball coach, Craig Hetz. Hetz was a former history teacher at United High School, and he was the head boys varsity basketball coach for quite some time.

Rodkey said he is “humbled” to have received the same position of a coach that he looks up to the most.

On this year’s basketball team, there are four seniors. Throughout their careers, the boys have had several coaches, but none have had the same impact as Coach Rodkey. It is clear that the boys are beyond excited for what is still in store for this season.

“Coach Rodkey is an amazing coach and an even better person. This year has been great so far, and he has brought so much joy to this program. We still have many things to accomplish,” said senior Austin Kovalcik, a four-year starter and recent 1,000-point scorer.

As a starter on that 18-0 girls’ team, I admired Rodkey’s determination for success. Each practice was even more intense than the last, and we were always working toward that same goal — to have an undefeated season. Being that he played basketball for many years himself, Rodkey was able to relate to us on all levels of the game. I have been a player for Rodkey for the majority of my life, and I have seen nothing short of greatness from his coaching abilities.

Proud is an understatement, and the United boys’ varsity basketball program is more than lucky to have him as their coach.

He is by far the best coach I have had the pleasure of playing for, and though it is an honor to have watched his coaching career play out from the viewpoint of an athlete, it has been ever greater to share the same last name with him while doing so.

My dad has always been the kind of person who would give the shirt off of his back to someone who needed it. He is always happy to help others in any way he is able. Growing up with a dad who was heavily involved in coaching and sports was always interesting, too. My mom would be taking us from his track meets, to his football games, to his basketball games, and to just about anywhere else that he needed our support. However, when it came time to get help with math homework or study for a big test, he was (and still is) my go-to.

My dad can explain things in ways that help people to be able to comprehend material — both on and off the basketball court. I truly believe that both his teaching and coaching careers have been successful because of his genuine compassion for helping others, especially student athletes.

This same idea about my dad transfers into the sports world, as well. If someone was having a not-so-good game, he would give them a much needed break. Rather than becoming aggravated and upset with them, the two of them would talk about everything that had been happening on the court, and what steps should be taken to make it better. It takes a real coach — a real educator — to be able to do that. Having someone that can and will mentally, physically and emotionally meet you at your level and take the time to understand how you´re feeling, is something that is very rare to see.

So, to those who are unsure of my dad’s abilities as the new coach to your student athletes, or even if you are a player who is unsure about this new coach, trust me when I say that you are very lucky to have him.