If there are any doubters about Robbinsville High School hiring the right man to be its new athletic director, they only need to listen to some of the folks who will be working under Tom Brettell.
“Tom is someone who really cares about the kids,” field hockey/lacrosse coach Jennamarie Colicchia said. “Nobody is ever a bother for him and he has always gone out of his way to do right by his team. I think Tom will create an environment that makes his coaches want to work hard, just like the environment he created for his players. The energy always comes from the top down and I think Tom is a great fit for the spot. When he says things, you know he really means them. We are all excited to work for him.”
Girls soccer coach Caitlyn Curran left nothing to the imagination when giving her approval.
“He is going to be awesome,” Curran said. “We’re really excited about Tom being the AD. He’s been a coach, he’s been a Robbinsville guy for a while. We always know he’s on our side. He’s a guy that’s gonna go to bat for us, he’s a family guy. He treats everybody as if we’re one of his, and we know he’s going to be a great fit here.”
One of the coaches who knows Brettell the best is head boys soccer coach Jeff Fisher, who served a long stretch as his assistant coach.
“I can’t think of anyone more deserving to become the AD here,” Fisher said. “Tom has over a decade of experience as a head coach, leading the baseball program to one of the most respected in the state. So, he is barely removed from the trenches and knows what our coaches need on a daily basis. Tom’s organization and communication skills make him a perfect fit for AD. Coaching alongside him for seven years, he is a guy who stands by his word and always commits to being a positive role model and doing what is right. I’ve considered Tom a mentor and a guy that I look up to. I know he will do a tremendous job leading athletics in Robbinsville.
Brettell also got rave reviews from those who will be working with him. Hamilton Athletic Director John Costantino, who coached Brettell in high school and coached with him after he graduated from college, feels RHS is getting the whole package.
“When you look at Tom Brettell as a player, a coach, teacher and now as an athletic director, you know you are going to get someone who is prepared and will always do what is right by his school, his coaches and his athletes,” Costantino said. “I have known Tom since he played for us at Hamilton back in the mid 90s. I look forward to working with Tommy in a different setting now as an AD. I wish him all the best.”
But before he gave his full endorsement, Costantino had to make sure Brettell had the right stuff.
“When I heard he was approved, I called him on his cell and left a message saying that this was a test to see how long it takes him to get back to me,” Costantino said. “He called back in less than five minutes. Test passed!”
Brettell has earned passing grades throughout his career as a teacher and coach, but thought it would only be as a teacher over the next few years. When he stepped down as head baseball coach after a successful 11-year run, Brettell was hoping for more time with his wife and kids. But when Curtis Wyers was promoted to vice-principal, the veteran educator could not resist the lure of working with a wider spectrum of student-athletes at the place where he has grown up professionally.
“This is my home,” Brettell said. “The opportunity came and you can’t pass up the opportunity. This place gave me the opportunity to be a head coach, and this is where I want to be. This was never a long-term goal, but once I got involved with the baseball program and the athletics here, you start to work with other coaches and programs, and you start to realize how awesome it is. Athletics brings people together. So yeah, you start to think about something like this.”
Brettell has been a staple in Mercer County sports for over two decades. After playing for Hamilton West, he attended The College of New Jersey and graduated in 2000 before gaining his master’s degree at Rider. He returned to his high school alma mater as teacher and coach for five years before moving to Robbinsville when it opened and becoming freshman baseball coach in 2006.
He moved up to varsity assistant in 2007, and took over the program from 2008-18, winning sectional and county championships while also serving the varsity assistant girls basketball coach. During that time, he earned a reputation throughout Mercer County as one of the true “good guys” while constantly learning the nuts and bolts of high school athletics.
“Being that he has been a coach here, and an extremely passionate and dedicated coach here, we know he knows what goes into the coaching responsibility,” Curran said. “It’s a lot to be a coach, we know he brings that element. The fact he’s been there, done that, he knows what we need and don’t need. He has our back in that situation.”
Brettell understands, however, that a lot of backs need to be covered in his job. He feels the most important thing is to support his coaches and their programs by building bridges with them, and also connecting with the officials, the recreation programs, the police department and the rest of the community.
“You’re this hub that you want people to be able to come and communicate with you and work with you,” he said.
That type of communication all leads to one goal: helping the student-athletes.
“In the end it’s about the kids,” said Brettell, whose brother Scott is also an administrator as vice-principal at Hopewell Valley High School. “We all work together to put the kids in a position to be successful, have them go to college, model leadership for them, help them become better citizens. We’re all part of that. The more people we can bring in to help that philosophy and help those kids do that, the better off we are. I think that’s a lot of what the position is.”
And he feels the best way to go about that, is through building relationships. He will apply the same philosophy to guiding coaches as he had in leading baseball players.
“When you’re a coach and you’re coaching players, you get the most out of them by building relationships with them,” Brettell said. “This is different, it’s a different perspective. You’re behind a computer a lot more trying to organize things. But at the same time it doesn’t change. It’s still about building relationships with a lot of people, and the student athlete is definitely at the top of this list. I want to continue to do that. I wouldn’t be involved in education if I didn’t want to be around the kids.”
Brettell feels like he is stepping into the perfect situation. He praised Wyers for assembling an outstanding coaching staff, and has the security of knowing if there is a problem, his predecessor is just down the hall.
“Every minute I’m asking him questions about what he’s done,” Brettell said. “His experience is invaluable. It’s nice to be able to lean on a guy who understands and who has been in the position.”
Thanks to Wyers, he has more than one guy to lean on.
“As soon as Curtis informed the other ADs he was moving up and I was gonna fill his position, so many of the Mercer County ADs reached out and said, ‘Hey if you ever need anything just let me know,’” Brettell said. “I felt very good about that. They are definitely very supportive of each other and as a newcomer they were open arms, so it was nice.”
And if the people who work with him like Brettell as much as the people who work for him, he should have no problem thriving as the head sports Raven.