By: Srinidhi Ananth and Ritika Mukund
Usually found sitting in the lower dining hall watching over the horde of students in study hall is none other than Michael Villafane, the man deemed the “Mr. James lookalike.”
But Villafane is far more than a replica of Mr. James; he is the school’s volleyball coach and, most importantly, a wonderful person at heart.
Though Villafane is a new Lower Dining Hall monitor this year, anyone on North’s volleyball team knows that he has been around for a while and loves North for its welcoming atmosphere. “The students are respectful, the staff is very friendly, and you are very welcome the second you walk in, which is not the case with other schools,” he said.
Villafane’s primary job here at North is to coach JV Girls’ Volleyball and Varsity Boys’ Volleyball. When the volleyball teams are in season, he works long days, proctoring lower during the day and coaching the team after school.
According to Villafane, the team has improved way more than they give themselves credit for. “They always say ‘we want more wins,’ but when it comes down to it, the progress they have made in a month and a half is way more than even I thought they could make,” he said.
Villafane drills the players into becoming not only assertive and active, but also comfortable while playing the game. “He makes sure to push you in every part of the sport, although it can be a little hard to process and apply sometimes,” sophomore Devanshi Narayan said.
Outside of school, Villafane also coaches girls’ volleyball at the Princeton Volleyball Club. However, he likes coaching high school volleyball just as much, if not more, because he is able to see the players every day and get to know them on the personal level. Villafane’s respect for his players is reflected in his treatment of the team. Sophomore Joanne Wang said, “He makes an effort to get to know [each player], and I think by doing so, he helps bond with the team, so we trust him more to coach us and help us in the best way possible.”
Villafane is highly optimistic and chooses to encourage the team to work harder. “Even at games, if we are losing and he signals for a time out, we all know what he will say,” sophomore Ayushi Jain said. “He will motivate us to hustle on the court, and be the best we can be.”
The freshmen, especially those who have never played volleyball before, are particularly impressed with Villafane’s coaching mentality. “Since I just started volleyball this year, he is always there for us and cheering us on,” freshman Katherine Dallas said. “He does not get mad if we lose a match. He is just happy that we went out there and had a great time.”
Villafane has adapted well to North, embracing his roles as both a volleyball coach and Mr. James lookalike. Instead of feeling frustrated that he is identified as someone else, he finds humor in the situation. He said, “I feel flattered. He’s a good looking guy in a powerful position.”