Sports

North Kitsap’s Chisholm just trying to pay it forward

North Kitsap High School head basketball coach Tony Chisholm took the Vikings to the state playoffs this year for the first time since 2005. As a result of his commitment to his athletes and to the game, Chisholm was selected by his colleagues as the NKHS coach of the year.  - Brad Camp/File photo
North Kitsap High School head basketball coach Tony Chisholm took the Vikings to the state playoffs this year for the first time since 2005. As a result of his commitment to his athletes and to the game, Chisholm was selected by his colleagues as the NKHS coach of the year.
— image credit: Brad Camp/File photo

POULSBO — Three thousand miles and 30 years removed from the chaotic streets of inner-city Harrisburg, Penn., Tony Chisholm recalls the upbringing that shaped who he is today.

Partially insulated from his neighborhood’s pimps, guns and drugs by the large Baptist family that surrounded him, Chisholm was thankful for the people who kept him on the right track.

“I was fortunate,” the North Kitsap boys basketball coach says. “I had a strong family, I had a Christian base. We stuck together. It took a village to raise us.”

Today, Chisholm, 48, strives to pass on that positive influence to students at North Kitsap High School and to push his young players in ways that will benefit them as well as the society in which they live.

“I’m a role model, and I respect that position,” Chisholm said. “My style of coaching is: respect first, caring, loving the athlete and then fun. You do the right thing, you work hard enough and compete, I think you give yourself an opportunity to win.”

That coaching style appears to work. This season Chisholm took the Viking boys to the state playoffs for the first time since 2005, and was named the NKHS coach of the year.

“He’s very dedicated to the kids and the success of the kids,” said NKHS athletic director John Waller. “His love for the game and his love for the kids has rolled over into the success of that program.”

Chisholm came to the Northwest on a plane ticket issued by the United States Army. After putting his time in at Fort Lewis, he moved to Poulsbo to be close to his in-laws and start a family of his own. One day at church, Chisholm, who played basketball as a youngster and coached his unit’s team in the Army, had a chance encounter with a substitute teacher who recommended Chisholm apply for a job at the local high school. So in 1991, Chisholm began his coaching career as an assistant with the NKHS girls junior varsity program.

“I kind of felt like it was the right thing and I was paying it forward. I was giving back what I was taught,” Chisholm said.

Two years later, Chisholm took the head boys basketball spot at Kingston Junior High and was asked if he would mind taking the lead position with the girls squad as well.

“I didn't even hesitate, because it’s just a passion for coaching,” he said.

After 13 years and three league titles with those programs, Chisholm transferred in 2006 to his current position atop the boys program at North. He timed the move to coincide with his son Taylor’s own progression from junior high to high school. This fall, the younger Chisholm will play football at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada.

“I’m just glad I had an opportunity to coach him,” Chisholm said of his son. “To send him off, and to know that he did exactly what I’d expect him to do, I’m just happy for him.”

Like anyone in a leadership role, Chisholm is not without his critics. Parents occasionally butt heads with the coach, but Chisholm says he tries to plod ahead and focus on staying positive for his student-athletes.

“That’s life,” Chisholm said. “Everybody has their own opinion. As I get older, I’m getting better at allowing it to roll off my shoulder, because I have more people on the other side of the fence that support me and agree with me and they love the way I coach and they know that I’m not perfect, and I’m teaching more things than basketball.”

One player who has appreciated Chisholm’s style and learned more than basketball from the coach is Kyle Erickson, who will play guard for the University of San Diego next season.

“He really just teaches you how to be successful in everything you do outside of basketball,” Erickson said of his longtime coach. “He’s definitely been a big part of me growing up and I know everybody else who’s come in contact with him would say the same thing.”

Though he’s through coaching his son and many of the players he has been with since their junior high days, Chisholm sees no reason to slow down.

“I know who I am,” Chisholm said. “I’m a coach. I’m a teacher. Coaching defines me. And if I can do this for the next 40 years, I’m a happy man.”

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