HOUTZDALE — Moshannon Valley boys basketball head coach Justin Rydbom may be one of the newest coaches to Progressland, but he has been involved in coaching for 15 years.
Rydbom, a 1996 graduate of Altoona High School, participated in numerous sports at the school, including as a member of the Lions’ Top 25 nationally ranked cross country team.
The Knights’ head coach said he helped with some youth level basketball before getting back into competitive sports himself.
Rydbom said he got back into coaching when former Mo Valley head coach Derrik Eckenrode asked him to be his assistant at the school.
He was Eckenrode’s assistant for two years before being elevated to the role of head coach.
Rydbom recently sat down and took the time to answer questions for our new series spotlighting Progressland high school coaches in all sports.
The reason I enjoy coaching is ... I coach because coaching provides me an opportunity to positively influence and inspire the student-athletes. Over the years, sports have taught me so many life lessons that I carry with me each and every single day, and I want to pass those lessons on to the kids. I’m able to teach the kids about teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership, all of which will help the kids in their future endeavors.
The hardest thing about coaching is ... I feel the hardest part is seeing defeat in a kid when things aren’t going well, or he/she hasn’t achieved their goals. Anyone who coaches obviously wants the best for their kids and we want all of them to succeed. So, it’s heartbreaking when I see one down on himself/herself because they’re struggling with something. It’s not always easy to convince a kid that if they keep working hard, success can be achieved, but I’ll try to help them each reach their goals in any way possible.
The biggest reason I continue to coach is ... The kids keep me coaching. I thoroughly enjoy watching all of them grow, not only as athletes, but most importantly as people and students. I’m motivated to continue working with the kids. I want to continue to help them get better in all aspects of life. Also, I have an ultra-competitive personality and that drives me to continue coaching. I want to keep striving to achieve our team goals, as well as my personal goals as a coach.
My real job off the court is ... I’m a Clinical Consultant with Optum, a subsidiary of United Healthgroup. I’m fortunate that my employer is very understanding and affords me the opportunity to continue coaching, so juggling the two isn’t extremely difficult. I’m also blessed to have a very supportive school administration, athletic director, assistant coaches and booster club who all do so much for our program and make things easier for me.
The person(s) who influenced me to get into coaching ... My parents would be my biggest influence. Although they never “coached” me in any sport I’ve played, they coached me in every other aspect of life. When I was a young kid, my father was a volunteer firefighter and paramedic, he was constantly giving back to the community and putting others ahead of himself. He still does those things to this day, just in a different way. My mother is a nurse and she has always gone the extra mile to not only ensure her patients receive the care they need, but also helping others in a time of need. They’ve instilled those values in me and coaching is my way of hopefully infusing those same values in others.
My favorite team/season or game that stands out me is ... The 2019-2020 season is my most memorable to this point since it was my first season as a varsity head coach. There was excitement and nervousness running through me the entire season.
Has coaching during the COVID-19 pandemic changed your coaching style ... The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely changed things for me, just as it has for every other coach. However, it has taught me a very valuable lesson and that is to not take anything for granted because you never know when something can be abruptly taken away. I’m just happy that the student-athletes have been given the opportunity to play.
My favorite thing outside of coaching is ... I enjoy staying active outdoors playing golf, hunting, and skiing. I’m also an avid fan of all Penn State sports, so I’m likely to be attending or just watching one of their events on television.
Is there anything else about yourself people might find interesting ... I greatly enjoy participating on the committee of the Allegheny Mountains Chapter of the Safari Club International, a non-profit organization. We help to host many youth hunting/fishing events and teach them the proper and safest way to participate in those activities.