Winter: Balancing coaching and motherhood

Abe Winter
Star Columnist

Tonya Chapweske, a teacher at Washington Middle School, and Robin Cusimano, a summer AAU coach, are excited about the upcoming volleyball season. For good reason.

Both figure to have athletes — junior setter/libero Josie Chapweske is Tonya’s daughter, and Sage Diegel, a 5-11 hitter, is Robin’s daughter — on the Custer County District High School team. 

Tonya will serve as the freshman coach and Robin is the junior varsity coach but both will serve as varsity assistants to first-year head coach Kodi Malnaa. Robin also is helping out in volleyball at Miles Community College.

The mothers of the two athletes were asked if the relationship changes when coaching your daughter.

“I feel it does somewhat,” Tonya said. “We just have that understanding that I’m a coach at practice and a mother at home. We’ve talked about how we value our mother-daughter relationship. That’s our main focus because it’s going to be longer than mother-athlete.”

That, she added, was why she prefers to be an assistant rather than the head coach. She also believes she will continue to get along with the other parents.

“We have an exceptional group of athletes and supportive parents and that’s important to the success of any program,” said Tonya, who has been coaching at the middle school for more than 12 years and also has worked at the high school level.

“As long as you are making the best decisions you can …” she said. “It’s never smooth sailing, but as long as we keep the kids at the heart of all this.”

Meanwhile, Robin isn’t concerned about any conflict with her daughter.

“We’ve been doing this a long time, ever since she was little,”  Robin said, adding that they’ve grown together in their love of the sport.

“In the gym, I’m the coach,” Robin said. “I try not to coach her at home. I keep it separate.”

Robin coached the freshman team last year and moves up a notch in 2017. She also has coached the summer AAU program since its inception four years ago. 

The talent level, she said, has blossomed at CCDHS, thanks in part to the AAU tournaments.

“We’re seeing it now,” she said. “It’s kind of like the domino effect. They start playing younger and they played against Double A schools.”

She has a goal in mind for many, if not all, of the players.

“We’ve got to get these girls good enough to go to college, get them ready to play at the next level because a lot of them really want to,” Robin said. “They have that interest.

“We are extremely talented. If they want to play at the next level, there’s room for them to move on.”



— Chase Soennichsen, the first-year volleyball coach at Miles Community College, certainly is impressed with the CCDHS talent.

“I know Chase wants them all,” Robin Cusimano said. “He’s already recruiting for the future. He sees what we have here and it’s exciting. There’s deep talent here.”


MCC’s athletic program needs your help. MCC is conducting its corporate sponsor drive, seeking donations to help with the expenditures that have increased by at least $40,000. The higher costs include the addition of the NJCAA Division 1 volleyball program and the forced move to Division 1 by the baseball program two years ago. Call Chase Tait, the men’s basketball/golf coach and athletic director, for more information at 406-874-6213.


This has been quite a week for Dominick Vergara, the new CCDHS activities director. Besides working with new coaches, “old” coaches, schedules, rosters and more, Vergara has spent a lot of time at Connors Stadium getting the field ready for the first football game. Despite many baseball games by the Mavericks and Colts, the grass looks good, the goal posts have been installed and the field is getting new yardage lines by Mike Merwin and Vergara. The first kick-off is set for next Friday at 7 p.m. against Billings Central.


— As a relative newcomer to the Miles City Star, I am interested in starting a College Corner feature in our sports section. That means gathering a list of Miles City athletes competing for colleges around the country — be it Dickinson State, Oregon State or wherever.

So, if you email the name to me, I will follow he or she and provide updates during the school year — no matter the sport. Send them to the email address below.

(Contact Abe Winter at or 406-234-0450.)