The girls’ basketball team had a disappointing season last winter, as the team finished with a win-loss record of 3-17. Now, two new faces will be on the bench looking to turn the girls’ basketball team around, as Steve Balter and Jennifer Berkowitz have joined as the team’s new co-head coaches.
Balter’s path to becoming a coach has certainly been unique. After being an analyst and portfolio manager in the investment business for over 20 years, he decided to make a career change after an unexpected occurrence in his life.
“In 2014, I had a pretty serious medical event that made me start thinking about what I really wanted to do going forward,” said Balter. “I chose to start coaching in 2018, and it has been the best decision I have ever made.”
While Balter has never coached organized basketball, he does have experience as a coach for the girls’ varsity lacrosse team since 2018. He has acted as the girls’ varsity lacrosse head coach since 2021.
“I have spent the majority of my time the last five years studying basketball and translating much of that knowledge to the lacrosse field,” said Balter. “The games are extremely similar in terms of strategy.”
Conversely, Berkowitz, a Wayland native, comes from a basketball background. She played four years of Division I basketball at Yale, earning a first-team All-Ivy nod in 2018, and being awarded the 2018 Nellie Pratt Elliott Award, given to a senior woman “whose excellence in the field of athletics and in her life at Yale best represents the ideals of sportsmanship and Yale tradition,” according to the official Yale Athletics website.
“Basketball has always been a huge part of my life and taught me invaluable lessons in teamwork, leadership, and work ethic,” said Berkowitz. “Coaching allows me to pass these lessons on to the next generation of athletes.”
While having two head coaches is not traditional, both coaches appear confident that this dynamic will work.
“We make a strong duo,” said Berkowitz. “We share very similar values, expectations, and work ethic, and we are constantly discussing and receiving feedback from each other before deciding on anything.”
“I am honored to be able to coach alongside Coach Berkowitz, and we have already developed a strong relationship,” said Balter. “My strengths are in understanding how to build a program and culture, which translates quite well across sports. Coach Berkowitz is an amazing basketball person, as well as a great leader and role model for the girls. I’m confident in my knowledge of many aspects of the game, but my partnership with Coach Berkowitz brings the missing pieces. Together, I think we are a great team.”
The players seem to be on board as well.
“I am very excited about our new coaches,” said girls basketball captain Allison Jones ʼ23. “I have talked to girls on the lacrosse team who have had Steve Balter as a coach before, and I have heard nothing but good things. Jen seems great as well with a great background in the game. I think she can really help us with technical skill and basketball conditioning.”
After last season didn’t go the way the team had hoped, the players seek to learn from their mistakes and have a much improved season.
“The team didn’t have a great season because we weren’t a real team,” said Jones. “We have the athleticism and skill set, we just need a more positive and winning mindset than we had last year. We need to pick each other up and hold one another accountable like good teams do.”
With the team’s first game on December 9 fast approaching, Balter and Berkowitz are set on improving the team’s culture and making this season a memorable one.
“I’m most looking forward to bonding as a group, and then going out and competing hard together,” said Balter. “Our focus will be on getting better each day, and I’m excited to see what this team will achieve. I think we might surprise some people.”
“I really believe we have a strong group of players this year who can make a huge impact in our league,” said Berkowitz. “I am also looking forward to bringing my knowledge as a player to the program and helping improve the overall culture. My best memories are from my days of playing basketball and building strong bonds with my team who became like family to me. I want to help this team feel the same way when they look back at their high school basketball careers.”