The Coolman family is a Vikings family now. Since Barak Coolman took over the head coaching position at Valparaiso High School two years ago, he and his family slid right into the green and white city of Valparaiso, as if they were meant to be here all along.
Coolman is originally from Fort Wayne. He graduated in 1996 and attended Bethel College for basketball and to earn his Liberal Arts degree in Business and Communication. His goals and dreams for life always centered around the sport of basketball.
“That was my dream since 5th or 6th grade on,” he said. “My dream was to play college basketball.”
After four years of playing, he stayed on to coach for another four years at Bethel. During so, he obtained a Masters in coaching at Ball State University, believing he was going to be in this profession for years down the road.
However, the life of a college basketball coach – the hours at practice, the numerous games, traveling – was hard on him and his wife Valerie, who he has been with for the last 18 years.
They moved back to Fort Wayne, where Coolman started to work for Youth for Christ, while helping out the Homestead High School basketball junior varsity team. “I just fell in love with coaching high school then,” he said.
Coolman went back to school in the Transition to Teaching program and taught special education and P.E for the next three years. Then, the next seven years, he was the assistant and moved up to the head coach position at Northrop High School.
“I really enjoyed being the head coach and found my passion,” he said.
After seven years of building the team up with several sectional wins, Coolman saw the open position for the head coach at Valparaiso High School and jumped on it.
The position offered another amazing head coach position, but it also offered the opportunity to work in a one community school district, a location closer to extended family and family roots, and to a community whose beliefs match closely with Coolman’s own.
“When the job opened, I was really excited for the opportunity because of everything Valpo offers and the rich basketball tradition,” he said. “ I am fortunate to get offered the job. I have been here two years and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Coolman works at Valpo High School as an administrator in the attendance office as well as coaching the team year-round.
Whether it was college or high school, Coolman just loves the sport of basketball, from the art of the game to the players.
“Basketball is basketball. College players are older, and high school a little younger, but I enjoy the relationships of basketball,” he said.
Coolman is there helping them become men, teaching the fundamentals of the game, and teaching them to be great leaders in the community.
“You can kind of do that at both levels,” he said, but the high school season allows Coolman to be involved with his own kids, whereas the traveling and time commitments of a college sport would have kept him away from his family too often.
“Basketball-wise, I am coaching and get to do what I love and basketball is a year round sport,” he said. “There is no off season, we are there all the time and always working on something.”
Whether the team is preparing for the next season or finishing up the current season, Coolman is developing the players and watching others graduate onto the next level.
With the high school team, he can have his basketball family, as well as be home each night for his family.
“I didn’t want to not be a big part of my kids’ lives,” he said. “High school coaching creates an atmosphere of being much more family oriented.”
Coolman has two kids, Kyla who is in 4th grade and Caleb who is in 2nd grade in the Valpo school system. One day they will be Viking students and athletes, but right now they like to be with their parents while exploring the Indiana Dunes and playing outside at home. They watch the Vikings play at every game and afterwards get to hang out with the team when Valerie and Coolman host parties at their house.
“My wife is the reason why I am successful,” he said. “She is a great coach’s wife and mother. She is at every game, supports the team, and does a great job overseeing the team.”
When the opportunity to move to Valpo two years ago presented itself, the Coolmans were thrilled to join this community.
“The school district is the number one value in the Valpo community,” he said. “There are great administrators and good leadership in teachers and staff. Valpo cares about sports and academics and pursuing excellence in all aspects. These values just align with where I and my family stand, so it’s just a good fit for my family and what we enjoy doing.”