Coach Osa. Head Coach, Franklin Varsity Men’s Basketball

Osa Esene, the Franklin Men’s Varsity Coach poses with a basketball. The seasoned player and coach is entering his first full season with Franklin High School. Photo provided by Osa Esene. 

Osa Esene towers above the Franklin cohort during passing period. The Franklin Men’s Varsity Basketball Head Coach and security personnel watches as his students and athletes walk to and from their classes. One could guess, by walking past Osa, that he would be good at basketball, or at least that he could crush them in a game of one-on-one, and they would be correct. Few, though, could guess that he played professionally in Germany, or of his time as a Phenom at The University of Hawaii Hilo, or how much the game has meant to him. Now as a coach, Osa hopes to share his love of the game with the next generation, as a means of empowerment, education, and inspiration. 

Since a young age Osa has been involved in athletics. “I really got into sports because of my mom. I had all this energy around the house, so she started taking me to all sorts of sports practices. Then I hit this amazing growth spurt and decided to focus on basketball,” remembers Osa. His choice paid off. Osa went to the University of Hawaii Hilo, where he played on their basketball team. In Hawaii, Osa won the PacWest player of the year award in 2004/2005. After Hawaii, Osa moved across the globe to fulfill his dream of playing professionally, in Germany. “Playing in Germany, being young, and doing something you love, it’s amazing,” remarks Osa. It was in Germany where Osa first took on the title of coach. 

In Germany, the members of his professional team were in charge of coaching the youth academy. Osa took over the club’s U18 team. Osa took his first ever team through a 16 week season with only two losses, and finished the season by winning the West Germany Championship. That was the point Osa knew that when he returned to the states he wanted to stick to coaching the sport he loved.

Osa has spent a lot of time racking up experience at various West Coast programs including West Side Christian, Centennial, Blue Mountain Community College, and Concordia, but now at Franklin, he is here to stay. “I think I was chasing opportunities too hard, the right opportunity will come, you just have to wait for it,” says Osa. 

Coach Osa has been impressed with the Franklin community upon arrival. “It’s a beautiful community with lots of support and great people. We bleed maroon, I haven’t met one person who doesn’t bleed maroon.” Coach Osa arrived at a strange moment in time for school athletics. A restructured schedule meant that his first season with Franklin was in the summer. Yet, for him the game plan hasn’t changed; “My expectation this year for us is to go out and be competitive and represent Franklin to the fullest. We want to set the tone that if you’re playing against Franklin you’re going to be playing a real game, we’re going to give everything we got. We’re here to compete no matter who it is.” Osa is focused on fostering a team environment where all 12 players are motivated to show up, support each other, and give their all every day. “Don’t expect anything to be, ‘Oh you showed up, it works out.’ It might not work out, but you have to continue to go at it, then you get better. You have to be consistent.”

Focusing on the whole of the team doesn’t mean that creating relationships with individuals isn’t a priority. Through his time as a player and coach, Osa has learned what he says is his most valuable lesson: “I do impact lives, that is the most valuable thing. These young men are growing each and every day. What’s valuable to me is their lives… You can’t be a mentor in the daytime and something else at night.” For players to leave his program with a higher ‘basketball IQ’ is one thing, and don’t be mistaken, it is an important one. But, for players to leave, having created a meaningful relationship and gained a valuable role model in Osa, that’s another, much more salient, result. “The friendship goes forever, you playing for me doesn’t.” 

The importance in which Osa emphasizes connection and friendship is striking. While his title reads Head Coach, Osa considers himself a versatile figure. “I’m definitely their coach. I want to be more to them than that, whatever they want me to be. To some guys I might be a dad, some kids, they want me to be their cool uncle, I don’t know!” Defining Osa’s exact role may be difficult, but it’s safe to say, as a mentor, day and night, during passing period and at practice, Osa is ready to make his first full season of Franklin Men’s basketball count. 

Diana Diaz-Diurych. Head Coach, Franklin Varsity Women’s Soccer

Diana Diaz-Diurych, the Head Coach of Women’s Varsity Soccer, poses in front of Franklin. It is Diana’s first year as the Varsity Head Coach, but fourth year with the Women’s program. Photo provided by Diana Diaz-Diurych.

A humble presence, the Franklin Women’s Varsity Soccer Head Coach, Diana Diaz-Diurych is poised to make a big difference in the lives of her players and the Franklin community. Diana has a two-tone approach that incorporates both on, and off-the-field tactics to help her athletes grow and become healthy, well-rounded individuals. On the field, Diana aims to create an environment completely free of distractions or outside stress in order to encourage creativity and freedom. At the same time, Diana also realizes how big the stressors of high school can be and hopes to lead conversations and activities to connect with her athletes as people and teach life lessons. 

Born in Venezuela, Diana moved to Indiana at a young age. Soccer became a vital part of her midwestern life. It served as a connecting point from life in Venezuela to Indiana. “It bridged the gap to culture in America,” remarks Diana. The now coach played soccer from the age of four through high school and into college at a small school in Indiana. Post-graduate, moving to Portland, Diana decided to stay with the sport that had brought her so far already. “I hopped on Indeed and saw the assistant coach opening for Franklin High School and applied sight unseen,” she states. Now, in her fourth year at Franklin, and first as the Head Coach of the Women’s Varsity team, Diana approaches her athletes with an advanced combination of soccer savviness, life lessons, and mindfulness.  

Through her lifelong experience with the beautiful game, Diana has developed a relationship-focused philosophy; “I’ve had all types of coaches. Young, old, all different genders, all different ideas of what works best. The most important to me were the ones that took the time to connect with me as a person, not just a player.” Being more than a coach takes a lot of different forms for Diana. This can mean making efforts to show up for players at other extra-curricular events, making sure they get to class on time or even the simple act of asking how school or home life is going. Investing in her athletes can also mean investing in the community: “We try to make the community not just players, by bringing parents into it, bringing friends, bringing siblings, and so on.” Creating a strong community and relationships that extend past the field is a key to building and nurturing trust. On the field, Diana invests in her athletes by cultivating a space free of distraction.  

As a mental health therapist, Diana infuses psychological strategies into the game as means of creating a more enjoyable and productive experience for her athletes. The coach asks that when her athletes step on the field, they put all the outside stressors aside. For the duration of practice, Diana requests that players don’t check the time or look at text messages. She tells them, “Let your mind be here, be creative, and have a moment to relax.” Diana was introduced to this style of mindfulness in college. “I think at first I thought what kind of woowy stuff.” Now, with the strange circumstances of COVID-19, Diana feels making a space where people can be themselves is more important than ever before. 

For many of us, the pandemic challenged our mental health, and Diana sees that there are more important things other than soccer, but also that she can use soccer as a tool to address them. “Soccer is great and amazing, but what really matters is that [my players are] good all around,” says Diana. The coach and mentor aims to teach life lessons and facilitate meaningful discussions beyond the sport of soccer. Even the seemingly small things can have a great impact. By doing introductions with names and pronouns or committing large chunks of practice to team building, Diana hopes to model the importance of inclusion and friendship. “Life is too short to leave people out,” says Diana. Another way Diana is able to help facilitate growth is simply by talking and mediating discussions: “One of the biggest things, too, is teaching women that they can do anything men can do and more… and having conversations with them and how that looks.” 

To Diana, growth in athletics is crucial, but if her players can walk away with a better sense of their identity and values, that means a lot more. Diana is driven to give all her players every potential resource to support and help them in the process on and off the field.  “I think they do a lot of work in being the best version of themselves, our job is just to make them commit to that work.”