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Basketball and Life Lessons with Coach Toomer

Headshot of Marcus Toomer

A love of sport and a passion for helping others led Marcus Toomer (Tooms if you’re on his team) to a life of coaching, on the court and on campus.

Like every other kid in his New York City neighborhood, Marcus Toomer ’08 and ’14 dreamed of playing in the NBA someday. There was just one thing standing in his way.

“I’m not great at basketball at all,” he says. “I’m pretty bad.”

What he is good at is helping others reach their full potential, on the court and in the classroom. Toomer refined those skills as he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Sport Management and Master of Education in Educational Leadership at York College of Pennsylvania. He is now the Bellefonte Area High School Varsity Girls’ Basketball Coach and academic advisor for the College of Liberal Arts at Penn State.

He didn’t make it to the NBA, but Toomer’s love of sport and enthusiasm for helping others have become a cornerstone of his career.

Developing strategy from the sidelines

Toomer’s zeal for coaching developed when he served as manager of his high school basketball team. He knew he wanted sports to be a focus of his career. When he visited York College, everything clicked. He remembers knowing instantly that he was in the right place.

“I just fell in love with the campus,” he says.

He continued to learn about coaching as a manager for the York College Men’s Basketball Team and, in his senior year, as student assistant, sitting on the bench with the coaches. In an internship as assistant coach at Dickinson College, he learned about scouting, recruiting, and other aspects of college coaching. His professors pushed him and had high expectations, supporting him every step of the way.

“They want you to be involved and want you to be great,” he says. “York College really gave me the opportunity to spread outside of my comfort zone and not be afraid to try, not be afraid to fail.”

Learning to lead

Toomer began his career working in Residence Life at York College. It was a natural fit for a coach who values life skills as much as basketball skills.

“I really enjoyed student affairs and getting to build relationships with students,” he says. While there, he pursued his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership. Teachers who want to become principals typically earn that degree.

“I wasn’t either,” Toomer says with a laugh. But the leadership skills he learned have been applicable to every aspect of his life, especially coaching at the high school level. 

“There were a lot of things I could take back to coaching basketball, a lot of transferable skills,” he says.

Coaching for life

Toomer is competitive, and like any good coach, he wants to win. But he tries not to put that pressure on his team.

“It’s really important that they have fun, that they want to be there. We try to teach them about life things, too, like, how can I help you be better?” he says.

As an academic advisor, he’s seen students in their second or third year of college who still rely on their parents and haven’t learned to advocate for themselves. He teaches the girls on his team to speak up for themselves.

“It’s important to have your own voice and advocate for yourself,” he says.

If you’re on Coach Toomer’s team, learning to be a good teammate and a good person are just as important (Okay, more important) than learning how to be a great basketball player.

“Coaching is my passion,” he says. “If I could do that every day for the rest of my life, I would do it.”