Vasilios Papaioannou: Inspiring On and Off the Field


Sarah Cohen

Assistant Coach Vasilios Papaioannou (far left) speaks to the varsity boys soccer team at half time during the 2017 season. Photo by Sarah Cohen.

By Sarah Cohen, Staff Writer

As the stadium lights flicker on while the sun starts to set, teacher’s aid and boys varsity soccer coach Vasilios Papaioannou gives pointers to the players as he notices what skills the other teams have individually and as a whole. 

Before he became a teacher, Papaioannou, affectionately called Papa by his players, played soccer until his freshman year of college. Due to a bad experience with a coach, he stopped playing soccer completely. Without the help of his family, he may not have found the love for this sport again, but Papaioannou found the reason he loved soccer so much and picked himself back up. This helped him grow as a person individually as well as allowing him to help others grow.

“My goal on that field is to teach those who love the game just as much as I do,” Papaioannou said. “I enjoy the competition, preparation for practices and games, working one-on-one with student-athletes, and the daily interaction it provides, but I most enjoy watching their progression over time and the increase in confidence that it gives them.”

For the past 11 years, Papaioannou has walked on and off the field after sharing his heart and knowledge of the game.

“I love the game, the various aspects of coaching, teaching the players skill, teaching tactics, coaching game-like situations, and just watching an individual player and team grow and develop as we go through the season,” Papaioannou said.

At Niles West, Papaioannou works with students to figure out why they are not doing well in school and help them do better. He motivates them to be a better version of themselves and motivates them to want to be better in school. Without his assistance, these students may not have the motivation and determination to do better. 

“There are many parallels between my role as a coach and my job as an academic advocate. I need to assess a student’s level of ability, reasons why they may be struggling in a particular class, and form an action plan that will be challenging, yet achievable, for the student,” Papaioannou said. “The reward is similar to that which I described earlier, from watching a student’s reaction to understanding something that minutes ago didn’t make sense all the way to seeing their overall grade improve for the semester as they gain the confidence to advocate for themselves and be independently successful.”

Besides being coaches on the field together, Papaioannou and his assistant coach Milo Cejovic share a good friendship. 

“Coach P’s main goal is to always do what is right and what is best for the students,” Cejovic said. “Coach P is someone I can always count on; he is one I can confide to whenever. You can always count on him to come through when you need him.”

On and off the field, Papa is always there for his players to help them through anything. He wants the best for them and wants them to take care of themselves first.

“Coach P always motivates me and pushes me to try my hardest on the field because he knows I can do more than what my mind is telling me,” varsity soccer player and senior Ian Shankar said. “He always checks on us making sure everything is okay.”

Being a coach and a teacher has made Papaioannou grow and develop as a person, but also has the other people in his life that he has impacted. Even in the hallways, he’s always there with a smile on his face, making those few seconds of the day five times better.