Be The Underdog

by Hayden Sturgeon

Being a freshman student athlete, I decided to find out the most important aspects that a coach looks for in upcoming athletes and what high school athletes coming into college should expect. So, what better way to accomplish this than by going to the source?

I had the opportunity to interview one of Wilson’s very own graduates from the 2010 class, Coach Mark Seidenburg, to ask him his thoughts on being a college athlete and even learn some about himself and the team.

Seidenburg started coaching the men’s basketball team for Wilson in 2021 but had careers previously at Delaware Valley University, Messiah College, and Penn State Harrisburg. He had much success during coaching, with Penn State Harrisburg having a record of 26-6 in the season he was there and being able to coach at Messiah College for 4 seasons.

When asked why he originally wanted to begin coaching, he said “at first it was just trying to stay a part of something that has always been a part of me. Then you start to fall in love with the young people and being able to mentor them and impact them”. He explained to me how he had played all throughout high-school and for 2 years in college after. “When your playing career expires, what do you do next” (Seidenburg 2023)?

Knowing that every person is different, he explained to me that his motivation is different with each of his players. “It’s trying to know who they are individually and what gets them going” (Seidenburg 2023). The strategies of motivation ranged from praying to watching film. “With one of our guys, he prays and that calms his heart. With another he wants you to scream and yell at him” (Seidenburg 2023).

Being in the middle of their season, I thought it might be good to get his thoughts on the team dynamics and relationship. He said that there are 3 things he works on with his team. “Respect, compete, and togetherness. We want the guys to respect each other, respect the game, respect campus. We want them to have a togetherness on the court, in practice, in the locker room” (Seidenburg 2023).

He also gave me some insight on his strategy for this season and upcoming seasons. It was a very simple answer which was “trying not to take a step backwards. Each year get a little better at something”. This semester their team had a 3.0 GPA which was brought up from a 2.7 last semester. Although their on-court performance had suffered last season, the grades were where they wanted them, according to Seidenburg. He says their season is now coming together.

While athletes may think that all it takes to play college sports is to perform well but this is far from the truth. Seidenburg put it bluntly, saying “you’re not as good as you think you are. As soon as you realize that you’ll start to reach your potential. What you see on social media is not who you are, it is who someone else is, so don’t try to chase or be someone that you see. Comparison is the death of achievement and personal success”.

Adding on, he told me that high school athletes should be humble coming in and find a way to stand out. He ended our interview with this, “be the underdog, stay the underdog, have the work ethic of the underdog”.

Before leaving, I asked Coach Seidenburg who he believed would be the best player to interview. He sent me to Wilson’s point-guard, Gary Robertson. I got to ask him a few questions about his experience and motivation in playing college basketball.

Robertson told me that his motivation is his family and friends. That his parents worked hard for him to get through school and he had lost friends along the way as well, which keeps him going. “For me it’s a couple different things. It’s always been a passion for me. In 10th grade I really made the decision to play basketball” (Robertson 2023). He is now a junior for Wilson and has made 231 points for the Phoenix’s this season.

Robertson also gave me some insight on the coach-player relationship of their team. He said, “Coach Mark has an unbelievable amount of faith in us. Sometimes it’s blind faith, where we don’t even see it in ourselves. That gives us the extra confidence that we can use to go get a win”.

All in all, being able to interview and get some insight into the world of a college coach and athlete not only helped me to educate myself on ways I can be better in my sport, but also will help high school athletes to know what coaches look for when recruiting.


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