Oorah: Marines teach Manhattan’s Nusseibeh valuable lessons


The long basketball season is over. The endless practices are done. The 30 or so games are in the books. The countless hours of watching film have ended. The numerous recruiting trips have paid off handsomely in Marriott rewards points.

So who could blame a coach for wanting to take a little R&R after all of that?

Not so for Manhattan assistant basketball coach Sahar Nusseibeh. What did she do in her precious little downtime? She joined the Marines.

Well, sort of.

Nusseibeh took part in the U.S. Marine Corps Coaches Leadership Workshop in Quantico, Virginia. A three-day hitch in which Nusseibeh and more than 30 other coaches from around the country took part in an effort to learn better leadership skills.

“I had friends and former colleagues who participated in this program before, and they spoke very highly of it,” said Nusseibeh, who just completed her first season with the Jaspers. “One of the members of the WBC (Women’s Basketball Coaches) reached out to me to see if I would be interested, and I definitely was. So I called my boss (head coach Heather Vulin) and she gave me the thumbs up, and that was it.”

Nusseibeh’s day began early and included everything from classroom leadership lectures to obstacle course maneuvers to martial arts training and more. It was a crash course in the Marine lifestyle.

“They tried to immerse us in as much as they could, which was great,” Nusseibeh said. “On the very first morning, we were up at 5:30 a.m., and we did a little mini-boot camp. I wouldn’t use the word ‘grueling’ because I still consider myself a little bit of an athlete, but it was fun. I think the point was they wanted to get you fully immersed in what they do. Kind of giving you a taste.”

One of those activities Nusseibeh was taking on the Marines’ famous obstacle course.

“They had a young man demonstrate doing the course, and he was remarkable,” Nusseibeh said. “It was like he was taking a stroll. But then they had us go through it, and you tried to complete as many obstacles as you could. I think I finished three or four of them, but it was difficult. There were many I just physically couldn’t do. It was pretty humbling actually.”

A typical day began with early “chow” in the mess hall, Nusseibeh said, before classroom sessions, all followed by an array of physical activities. 

 “There was boot camp, then breakfast,” Nusseibeh said. “Then there was a classroom session on leadership and how they divide leadership in the military. They had something called small unit leadership, which was very interesting and definitely something I want to take back with me to Manhattan women’s basketball.”

That course, she said, teaches the value of ownership. “When you have ownership of something, you take more pride in what you do. I think that is great for sports teams because coaches usually just give leadership to their captains and that’s that. But I think to give ownership to different portions of the team, whether they are captains or not, is huge.”

The activities the Marines lined up for the coaches helped them with their decision-making process under some very stressful conditions, Nusseibeh said.

“We also did a leadership reaction course on the base which was awesome,” Nusseibeh said. “Basically you were in a 15-by-20-foot enclosed area, and in each box there were obstacles. So you were in there with your fire team of four, and you met with one of the military commanders and he would give you instructions to accomplish an objective.”

One scenario, for example, featured an area behind a wall where there was ammo, and everyone had to work together in order to get that ammo.

”There were booby traps all around, and you only had 10 minutes to execute the mission,” Nusseibeh said. “That was really cool. It was all about how you deliver instruction. Are you clear? Are you concise? In the heat of the moment, are you the one making decisions?”

Nusseibeh also was given instruction in martial arts, which she said was an inspiring part of her stay.

“We learned self-defense mechanisms which was pretty empowering,” she said. “We were learning ways to defend ourselves, and I think that is something a lot of women should know how to do.” 

But while Nusseibeh and her colleagues learned much during their three-day stint, she also came away with a greater appreciation for those who serve in the armed forces.

“What I think I got most out of it was my respect for our service men and women,” Nusseibeh said. 

“They are incredible people and they have so much pride in what they do. They are just phenomenal. 

“What they do on a day-to-day basis, and the fact that we were able to just immerse ourselves in it and learn about how they live and the commitment they have for us. was pretty incredible. They are amazing people. 

So after all she has learned in her brief Marine stint, should the Jaspers players be wary of their practices next season?

“Definitely not,” Nusseibeh said, laughing. 

“It was funny, I told (Manhattan center) Kayla Grimme where I was going and her jaw dropped. She said, ‘Don’t bring anything back with you.’”