By Bill Alden
Sean Costello fell in love with the sport growing up on the campus of the New York Military Academy in the bucolic Hudson Valley.
“I was always around her; I just walked into whatever was going on,” said Costello, whose father was the longtime NYMA manager. “I became very close to the coaches. I was good friends with the sports director’s family. I used to go to practices, hang out and shoot. I grew up playing with kids who were on campus.
Costello then played football, basketball and baseball at Cornwall Central High, then competed in football at the University of Rhode Island and the University of Scranton.
After working briefly for a media company in New York City, Costello returned to athletics and academics, teaching and coaching at the Shipley School in the Philadelphia area. He then coached twice at the college level, as an assistant for the Appalachian State and Belmont women’s hoops programs.
Costello then returned to Shipley to coach and work in the school’s admissions office. In order to sharpen his business acumen, he left Shipley to take up the position of general manager of the Maplezone Sports Institute in Aston, Pennsylvania.
But, missing out on being around private school athletics, Costello came to the Hun School this summer where he will serve as co-director of athletics and head coach of the women’s basketball team.
“I was happy in my position, but I also had my eyes open for other jobs,” Costello, 40, said. “I was planning to stay there for two years and then try to go back to a school. My wife, Kara, and I had our first child this spring and that sped up the process for me because I was a member of a school community when I was a kid and I really enjoyed that.
After a stellar football career at Scranton where he served as an all-conference interpreter and team captain, Costello chose to take a break from campus life and headed to Manhattan where he worked as an assistant buyer for a media company.
“I wanted to break my family mode as an educator, both of my parents were educators,” said Costello, a 2004 Scranton graduate. “My dad was a principal, my mom was a kindergarten teacher, and my older brother became a teacher. . I decided that I was going to go into business and try to make a lot of money. I realized very quickly that I missed sports and being part of a team, being on a campus and working with children.
In 2007, Costello came to the Shipley School campus where he wore a variety of hats as he studied for a teaching certificate in health and physical education at West Chester University.
“I was a JV women’s basketball coach, a men’s varsity football assistant coach, and a varsity softball assistant coach at that time,” the bearded Costello recalled with a smile. “My role kept evolving. I was a coach while I was getting my teaching certificate, then they hired me outside of my teaching as a physical education teacher and coach in a elementary school. I then joined the admissions office and then I became associate athletic director. I continued to progress, I was the football and basketball coach for the girls of the university.
In an effort to bolster the women’s hoops program, Costello began coaching the Philadelphia Belles, an AAU U12 team. Building that program into a national finalist helped make Shipley a powerhouse and led Costello to try varsity coaching in 2014. He served as an assistant on the Appalachian State women’s hoops team for one season , then took a similar position with the Belmont University Program for a campaign.
While Costello enjoyed top-level coaching, he yearned for the independent school setting.
“It was a great experience, but college is very different from the prep world,” said Costello, who helped Belmont win a conference title and enter the NCAA Tournament. “I really missed seeing the good growth of kids that age and helping them take it to the next level. I like running my own program at schools like Shipley or Hun, which are great places. You bring the kids to a great product and you’re able to take them to the next point, so I ended up going back to Shipley.
From 2016 to 2021, Costello completed his second stint at Shipley, as Associate Director of Athletics, working with admissions and coaching. As he flourished in these roles, Costello decided he needed business experience to advance in sports administration and he took on the role of director of Maplezone.
“I loved Shipley, it was very difficult to leave but it was always with the aim of getting a sporting director position,” Costello said.
During his 18 months at Maplezone, Costello hosted tournaments, managed the complex’s seven grass pitches, attracted new rentals and oversaw renovations to the facility, among other duties.
“It ended up working really well, it was so different; I went from working in a nonprofit to a for-profit,” said Costello, who earned a master’s degree in strategic leadership and a certificate in entrepreneurship from Rosemont College in 2019. “It was totally dollar driven – how do we optimize our space, how do we get more rentals, how do we run our baseball tournaments? It really answered my need for in these areas of management and dealing with budget constraints. I had done just about every job I could do in a school, now I was starting to manage an organization. I had to answer a board about our numbers. I had to make projections. It was very busy business. I wouldn’t be as confident as I am now in this role if I hadn’t made that choice.
As an assistant coach for the women’s soccer team at Newark Charter School (Del.) While running Maplezone, Costello began looking for AD opportunities and ended up at Hun, who was looking for someone to take over. to retired co-AD Bill Quirk.
“I’ve been a finalist for a number of AD positions; I was offered other jobs but I knew Hun,” Costello said, noting that his Shipley basketball team had played Hun many times over the years. “It’s beautiful, I’ve been to campus before.”
Costello is delighted with the joint effort of managing the Hun athletics program with co-AD Tracey Arndt.
“It’s different, we’re doing it; I think there are definite upsides to that,” Costello said. “We get really excited about certain ideas and bounce certain things off of each other. I want to see how things work first. We try to figure out how to use each of our strengths and help each other. We will grow there. I am excited. Tracey is great – she does a lot of stuff, trying to bring me up to speed. There’s already such a good foundation for where the program stands and we’re just looking for ways to make the student-athlete experience as solid as possible.
Additionally, Costello is motivated to work on strengthening the Hun girls’ hoops team, building on the foundation laid by longtime coach Bill Holup, who stepped down after the 2021-22 campaign.
“I think there’s a good group here,” Costello said. “I am excited to share my experience with them, my travels and hopefully a fun style of basketball. I know the Mid-Atlantic Prep Leave (MAPL) teams, there are all the teams I have played at Shipley. The players are already working out, you can’t do practices but you can do practices. Some of them come to weight training a few days a week. Some wanted to do early morning practices. I think there is a desire to improve and raise the bar.
As the school year is about to begin, Costello has a desire to develop the deep bonds with the Hun community he has forged at Shipley.
“My career path has been through the relationships I’ve been able to build,” Costello said. “I grew up in Shipley, moved around different departments. I was able to learn a lot more about the school and the importance of the different departments. I want it here. I want to meet everyone. I want to know what motivates them, I want to know what excites them and how our athletic department can partner with them. I want to meet the families and the community. It ignites me. That’s what really excites me. Of course, I love sport, but what I love most about sport are the relationships it creates. This is the reward for educators, to see the students you have taught at older ages and how successful they have been and what they have learned from their time here.