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NHS Chief Advocate

Sheikh the Quintessential Nonnewaug Chief

Nonnewaug+girls+soccer+head+coach+Nick+Sheikh+surveys+the+team%E2%80%99s+warm-ups+before+a+game+this+past+season.+A+1999+graduate+of+Nonnewaug+High+School+himself%2C+Sheikh+has+served+as+head+coach+of+the+girls%E2%80%99+team+since+2008+and+is+also+the+head+coach+of+the+boys%E2%80%99+tennis+team+during+the+spring+season.+%28Courtesy+of+Noreen+Chung%29
Nonnewaug girls soccer head coach Nick Sheikh surveys the team’s warm-ups before a game this past season. A 1999 graduate of Nonnewaug High School himself, Sheikh has served as head coach of the girls’ team since 2008 and is also the head coach of the boys’ tennis team during the spring season. (Courtesy of Noreen Chung)

WOODBURY — Fall, 1995. Nick Sheikh, a freshman at Nonnewaug High School, makes his way down to the grass soccer field behind the school, one of his first practices as a member of the Chiefs boys soccer team ahead of him. 

Fall, 2008. Sheikh, now a certified biology teacher, unlocks the door of classroom 131 in Nonnewaug’s old science wing – his first classroom. Later that day, Sheikh makes his way down to the field, now as head coach of the Nonnewaug girls soccer team. 

Twenty-one years later, his fall routine remains the same – just with a different classroom number, a renovated school, and a much nicer playing field.

“I had a good experience here. I had a lot of dedicated educators, and I think if you look at some of the current staff, there’s quite a few former grads that are back teaching and coaching, which is good to see,” Sheikh reflected. “There’s some level of giving back to the community that helped raise you.”

As a Nonnewaug student, Sheikh was a four-year soccer and tennis player, a National Honor Society and Student Council member, and a high performing student who took most of the AP classes offered at the time. After graduating, Sheikh played competitive collegiate tennis at Connecticut College, and went on to get his masters’ degree in coaching and athletic administration at Concordia University.

“That was kind of my interest at the time; I was thinking about maybe coaching collegiately,” he said of his course of study. “That, and med school was also a potential.”

Yet after all of that, he ended up at the same place he started: Nonnewaug.

Nick Sheikh takes a swing at a tennis ball on the courts of his alma mater, Connecticut College, which competes within the competitive New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) at the Division III level. (Courtesy of Nick Sheikh)

“Before I started teaching, I was coaching girls tennis here,” he said. “I was actually long-term subbing while I was coaching, and that kind of segued into continuing on the teaching path.”

Now, just over two decades later, Sheikh’s role within the Nonnewaug community is still as prominent as ever. Both in the school building and on the sports field, his influence has remained steady. Toby Denman, a coworker and one of Sheikh’s closest friends, can testify to this.

“I think the biggest impact he has had is just a steady influence on both of the programs he’s involved with, just knowing that there’s some continuity,” Denman reflected. “He tries his best to create a positive atmosphere, and have things be fun in both of the sports, and have them be places that people want to be.”

Denman also emphasized that Sheikh “does a good job with some difficult classes.”

“He does his best to keep people on task and engaged in what they’re doing, and I’m willing to bet,” he jokingly added, “that some funny stuff happens in class that he can either laugh off, or he might be an active participant in the funny stuff that happens.”

Yet the unique role that Sheikh has carved out for himself goes deeper than the things he does. It’s a quality which many teachers and staff cannot accredit themselves to fulfilling, one that rarely gets lived up to. 

As Sheikh’s closest coworker for a majority of both of their careers, Denman puts it perfectly. 

“Any school should want to have people who are dedicated participants, and do things to make the lives of the students better while those students are here,” he said.  “Someone who’s been around as long as he has, and done all the things that he’s done, in a steady and consistent manner, is certainly part of the fabric of the school. I think that’s what it means to be [a Chief]: somebody who’s all in with what’s going on around here, and he’s certainly that.”

It’s not just his most trusted peers that see Sheikh as a true Nonnewaug Chief, though: athletes and students who have had him as both coach and teacher over the years see this quality within him as well.

“I think Sheikh represents what it means to be a Chief by his dedication of coaching the boys’ tennis team and girls’ soccer team, and leading us all to [Berkshire League] championships,” said Nonnewaug senior Luke Cenatiempo, who is a member of the tennis team. “His leadership is inspiring to all of his athletes.”

Paige Brandt, a 2022 Nonnewaug graduate and three-sport athlete at Westfield State who captained Sheikh’s soccer team her senior season, agrees.

“I define a Chief as someone who brings people up,” she said. “Not only is Sheikh a teacher, but he also is a multi-sport coach who never fails to bring students and athletes to excellence.”

About the Contributor
Gianna Lodice '24
Gianna Lodice '24, Senior Editor
Gianna Lodice is a senior at Nonnewaug and a first-year reporter for the NHS Chief Advocate, now serving as a senior editor. A three-season athlete, Gianna is captain of the soccer, indoor track, and outdoor track teams, a testament to her passion for sports. She is also serving as the president of Nonnewaug’s National Honor Society for this year, and she is a member of the agriscience program. After high school, Gianna aspires to run track at her dream college (wherever that is) and potentially major in history on her route to law school. She is excited to write about things that interest her and have new experiences.
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