Tahoe Prep taps Collins as head coach for ‘19-20 season
Since it first opened its doors along the shores of majestic Lake Tahoe in 2016, Tahoe Prep Academy has grown to sign its first international player and join two new leagues.
Next season, the academy will again have two independent teams at the prep and varsity levels. To ensure that the academy’s growth is supported and to open doors for continued growth into the future, former prep team head coach Mike Lewis has been elevated to Tahoe Prep’s first full-time athletic director, while Chris Collins, a veteran coach who has been with Tahoe since the academy was still in the planning stages, will take over the reins as head coach of the prep team.
“This gives us the best of all worlds now, with Mike heading up the academy as athletic director and still helping Chris on the bench as an assistant coach with the prep team,” said Leo Fenn, Tahoe Prep president and varsity coach, adding that the change will also help with the addition of a women’s volleyball prep program scheduled to begin in Aug. 2020.
“Chris brings energy, passion and youthfulness to the bench that is incredible. This is the role we have groomed him for. We all complement each other with our coaching strengths.”
Collins joined with Tahoe Prep in its inaugural season back in 2016, after previously coaching the Tahoe Icemen, a Junior A team in the Western States Hockey League. He came on board with a lot of respect for Lewis and his reputation, and his long-held admiration for the new athletic director has only grown during their time together in Lake Tahoe.
“When I was growing up in Southern California. you always saw him (Lewis), and you always knew about him,” Collins said. “He was always ahead of the curve in terms of coaching, which is why he has had so much success. There is a lot that he brings to the table, and there are a lot of things that he has taught me away from the game – how to carry yourself as a head coach, how your demeanor matters, how not to talk too much so when you do talk, your players listen.”
Along with these lessons, Collins said Lewis has encouraged his creativity.
“What we do really well at Tahoe is not just teach skill but teaching skill in a way so the players understand how to utilize it correctly,” Collins said. “Our emphasis is on teaching skills in the context of the game, so players will understand when a certain move will work in a game situation and when to use it.”
Collins has a deep-seated passion for hockey.
“I spend a lot of time being a student of the game, which includes a lot of late nights watching hockey – not NHL so much, but junior hockey,” Collins said, admitting he does it so much he drives his wife a little crazy. “We know our development model works. We see it in the improvement our kids achieve in as little as one season. What I love the most is how excited a player is to go home at Christmas break and skate with his old team to see how much they have improved in a short time.”
Looking forward to the 2019-20 season and his first year behind the bench in the head coach’s role, Collins said he’s especially happy about the additional exposure that Tahoe Prep’s players will get by playing in the Tier I East Coast Elite League in addition to the NAHL Prep League. Between the two leagues, the academy’s athletes will get to face top-level programs from across the country, and the added element of competition will only help them develop their skills.
Collins lives in South Lake Tahoe with his wife and two daughters, who are three years old and two months old.
— Greg Ball
(June 19, 2019)