New Manchester High School girls basketball head coach Shawn Zavodney knows that sports aren’t everything, and not even the most important thing.
As such, he will incorporate a lot of life lessons into his work with the team.
In fact, that process has already started even though it’s only the middle of the summer and the opening of the season is still four months away.
And as it turns out, the first topic to be covered is also one of the most important ones. It’s about finding true happiness – and fulfillment – in your life’s work.
As they say, if you like what you do and are happy doing it, you’ll never work a day in your life. But if you don’t like whatever it is that you end up doing, you’re going to be miserable.
So shoot for the stars and be prepared to work hard, and if you do, you have a chance. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently, or dissuade you.
Zavodney didn’t let that happen while growing up in Bath Township during the 1970s and early ’80s, and as a result, "I got to live my dream."
What was that dream?
"I love it. I still do," he said. "I love teaching (computers at Manchester Middle School) and coaching (he also coaches the boys golf team at the high school), but those are No. 2. What I love even more is music, and it was my dream as a kid to go into that as my profession."
It’s a long way from Bath – or any other community in the Greater Akron-Canton area – to the bright lights of the entertainment world. But Zavodney was not deterred.
"If you’re willing to work hard and go all in on it – that’s the key, to throw yourself totally into it and be fully committed – then you have the possibility of making that dream come true," Zavodney said. "That’s what I’ve always tried to tell the kids since I began teaching (in 2002 at Manchester), that anything is attainable if you’re willing to put in the time and effort necessary."
Almost as soon as he graduated from Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in 1984, he headed to Los Angeles and eventually landed a spot with the rock band Warrant as a keyboard player and singer. The band, which still exists, was in its heyday from 1984-96, having five albums that sold more than 10 million copies each internationally.
"We toured all over the world. It was an unbelievable experience," Zavodney said. "I made a ton of money, and I spent a ton of money."
When he first came to Manchester, he would often spend most of his summer touring. He is still involved in music.
"It’s in my blood," Zavodney said. "I love it."
And so do others. Zavodney, who coached girls basketball at the middle school for 15 years before moving to the high school as the junior varsity coach the last two seasons, has never broadcast the fact that he has had a career in music, but he hasn’t hidden it, either. As such, word has gotten out that the guy is a rock star – in earnest.
"I’ve had any number of my players’ parents come up to me and ask about the band," he said. "They think it’s really cool. They like Warrant and they know all of our songs.
"But my players are embarrassed that any of that is going on, that their parents are talking music with their basketball coach. It’s so totally uncool to the kids."
One of the group’s biggest hits was the song "Cherry Pie," from the platinum album of the same name.
"I don’t remember where we were playing this past season, but in the pre-game warmups, they were playing ‘Cherry Pie’ over the loudspeakers," Zavodny said. "That kind of thing has happened before. People know what the story is."
But there are parts of Zavodney’s story that they may not know. In 1999, on one of his trips back to the Akron area, he enrolled in classes at the University of Akron. He had no intention of getting a degree or even staying very long. It’s just that the girl he was dating at the time was a student there.
"It was something to do," he said.
Zavodney had been there only a short time when one of the professors asked him if he ever thought about going into education.
"I was like, ‘No!’," he said. "Here I am with tattoos all over my body and hair hanging down to my hind end, and I’m an older student. I’m 12 years out of high school. I’m in my early 30s.
"But I ended up going out on a tutoring trip with her and I liked it. As it turned out, I got through school in just three years and graduated in 1999 with a (bachelor of science) degree in education."
Indeed, it’s not the way most teachers/basketball coaches get their start, but then again, Zavodney is not your average teacher/basketball coach.
He had never been a varsity basketball head coach before Manchester hired him in mid-May to replace longtime and highly successful coach Tucker Pappas, whose contract was not renewed for reasons that still aren’t clear.
But while there will obviously be at least somewhat of a learning curve for him, he won’t have to adjust to being on stage, so to speak, and out in front of the public eye. Nor will he be bothered by people in the stands screaming at him.
His musical career already primed him for that.
That aspect of it wasn’t part of Shawn Zavodney’s dream way back when, but it will come in handy now. Perhaps that will be a life lesson, too, for his players.