LHS girls coach leaves for overseas opportunity

Lawrence High head coach Nick Wood goes over the game plan with his players during a timeout in the second half, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School.

When basketball coach Nick Wood packs for a road game next season, he better not forget his passport.

Wood didn’t have to worry about such an issue the past five seasons while coaching Lawrence High’s girls basketball team in the Sunflower League, but he recently resigned from that position. He and his wife, Loralea, will be moving with their two young children to Muscat, Oman, where the couple will work as teachers at The American International School of Muscat.

Nick will teach physical education classes while serving as the varsity boys basketball coach. His team will travel to play against other American schools in countries such as India, Jordan and Bangladesh. It figures to be a little more exciting than riding along K-10 to play at Olathe or Shawnee.

“It’s gonna be an amazing experience,” the 35-year-old coach said, “and I think it’s gonna help me grow as a coach and also grow as a teacher over there.”

When the opportunity to live and work in southwest Asia presented itself, Wood said he and his wife, who currently teaches at Kennedy Elementary and coached the LHS dance team, had to go for it.

“It’s so hard, because we’re so happy here, and we love what we’re doing here,” said Wood, a 1996 LHS graduate. “But at the same time, it’s just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go travel the world and experience different cultures for ourselves and have our kids experience those things, too.”

Of course, the most difficult part of the decision was telling the Lions he’ll be leaving behind. This past week, Wood sat down with the returning varsity players to let them know about the move, because he didn’t want them to hear about it from somebody else.

“That was really, really hard — to look them in the eye and tell them I’m not gonna be there for them,” Wood said. “They’re such a good group of kids. It’s really hard to think about not being their coach anymore.”

The conversation got emotional, he added, due to the hard work the players had invested. But they understood it was a unique chance for their coach and supported him.

“I feel like the program is right on the edge of turning and being really successful,” Wood said.

Wood described Oman’s capital city of Muscat as a laid back, “Westernized” place where he is excited to live and work. Both he and his wife took a foreign-teaching leave of absence from the Lawrence school district, so they could come back in two years (after their contracts with TAISM expire) and teach in Lawrence if they chose to do so. Wood said they will evaluate their options after two years in Oman and see where their path will take them next. But he said both he and Loralea, who will work as an early childhood teacher, hope to return to Lawrence sometime in the future.

In the meantime, Wood looks forward to keeping up with his former players’ progress from the other side of the world.