The Man Behind Every Dig, Set, and Vault: Coach Choubaralian

Get to know physical education teacher Vasken Choubaralian, coach of the varsity volleyball teams and the girls’ gymnastics team.

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Coach Vasken Choubaralian

Height: 5’7”

Eye color: Brown

Hair color: Black

Birthday: 04/05

Coaching Time at Stuyvesant: 13 years

1. How did you get into coaching?

An opening to coach the girls’ gymnastics team fell into my lap. I was a new teacher at Stuyvesant, and just two months into the job, I was approached by two seniors from the gymnastics team. They were desperate for a coach, since they wouldn't have a season without one. They convinced me that I didn’t have to do or know much. Even though I had no gymnastics experience, I always had a lot of respect for the sport. I jumped right into the deep end and I've been swimming ever since—so to speak.

2. What is your favorite memory so far during your time coaching at Stuyvesant?

I have many great memories. One is when I won my first-ever city championship with the girls’ varsity volleyball team in 2018. Another is when I was punched in the eye while spotting a gymnastics skill, resulting in the biggest black eye I have ever had for over a week. The girl, of course, was fine.

3. What is the funniest thing that’s happened during your time coaching?

One of the funniest things started out as one of the scariest moments. During a gymnastics meet at Bronx Science, a girl was swinging under the high bar in a stretched body position about to dismount when she suddenly slipped off the bar way too early. Her body remained straight as she flew through the air with her head inches off the ground. Very luckily, she landed flat on her stomach with her face on the mat. She lifted her head and said, “Oww, I burned my nose on the mat.” The best part is that it was recorded and someone later made a GIF using that Gwen Stefani song. Instant classic.

4. What is the biggest challenge as a coach?

The biggest challenge is coming up with new ways to challenge the team members so that they can continue to improve. The next biggest challenge is finding the right mix of players and positioning that will lead to better team performance. That is a very dynamic and fluid thing because so many players have different skill sets and talents that can change the outlook of a game.

5. What is the best individual performance by a Stuyvesant player that you’ve seen?

The best performance I have seen was by a volleyball player named Mariya Kulyk. It was at a tournament at Francis Lewis High School. She made a play at the net, chased a shanked ball way beyond the service line, and then made a block for the point—all in a single rally. It was incredible.

6. What advice do you have for young athletes?

I would encourage them to play and try out for a variety of sports. There are many more benefits to being a multisport player than a single sport specialist.

7. What is hardest about having to balance three sports teams a year?

The lack of mental and emotional rest is the hardest thing. It takes a toll on me. I am constantly thinking about strategy, the athletes, the wins, and the losses. It keeps me up at night.

8. What were you looking forward to most about this season before the coronavirus hit?

Besides looking forward to seeing my seniors step up to center stage and the new recruits finding their groove, I was most excited about sharing the good times we would have had together—the jokes, the laughs, the digs, and the dives.

Drink of Choice: Daily basis: Water (boring, I know) Occasionally: Teas and Kombuchas

Favorite food: Asian (Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Korean)

Motto to live by: Life is what YOU make it.

Fun fact: I modify and race my own car in an event called autocross. I also drive a racecar at an endurance race around tracks in the Northeast. That race is called 24 Hours of LeMons.