SHS character
Paul Kessler
Aliases 'Dad' (Emily Kessler and Sara Kessler)
'Coach K' (Zach Wells)
Gender Male
Hair Brown
Eyes Blue
Occupation Swim Coach


Mrs. Kessler
Family Sara Kessler (eldest daughter; deceased), Emily Kessler (youngest daughter)
Enemies Enemies Nick Brown
First Sink or Swim
Latest The Snow Ball, Part 2

Coach Paul Kessler is the current swim coach at Twin Branches High. He was a former Olympian and notoriously known throughout the game for his strict diets and training regimes for his daughters Sara and Emily Kessler. He is first seen in season 5 of The New Girl, Prom. Coach Kessler's most notable storyline has been his strained relationship with his daughter Sara and his disapproval of his other daughter Emily's relationship with Ben Kale.


The New GirlEdit

Coach Kessler first appears in Season 5 of The New Girl, Prom as the coach of the recently-formed swim team when Sam desires to join the team. He is quickly introduced as a stern coach and father of Sara, who puts the members of the team on a strict regimen and diets.

Being her father, Coach Kessler's primary storylines are in relation to his daughter's, Sara. He quickly opposes Sara's proposal to go to the Homecoming Dance, though allows her after her constant begging. Additionally, during Season 11 of The New Girl, The Election, when Sara runs in the presidential election, Coach Kessler unsurprisingly is against this, as this would distract her from her swimming career, but also because Coach Kessler believes that Sara and her campaign manager, Nick, would soon become romantically involved.

Despite his and Sara's strained relationship, Coach Kessler is concerned for Sara's whereabouts during The Storm, Part 2. Upon learning that Sara died in a car accident, Coach Kessler is both depressed and angry (at Nick, who was in the car with her, in particular) for his loss and failure to stop the events.

Surviving High School: The NovelEdit

In Surviving High School: The Novel, Coach Kessler has become even more strict with Emily now that she's older and is training to beat her sisters time record. He corrects Emily whenever she calls him "Dad" at practice and even when they're eating dinner together at home. He's embarrassed when Emily accepts a challenge from a Dominique, another student on the swim team, and loses. He did not know that Emily had been sneaking off every night with Ben Kale instead of resting until he had been tipped off in an email by an anonymous sender (who turned out to be Dominique), and forced Emily to break things off with Ben completely.

After witnessing another one of Emily's losses at a competition, he compares Emily's attitude and swimming history with Sara's, stating that she never "would have lost like that". He gives up on Emily and tells her so, secretly hoping that she would redouble her efforts in the pool to get back into shape and refocus much like Sara had. This plan backfired when Emily learned the truth of what happened to Sara and that Nick hadn't been driving the car that night and announces she's not planning on attending Junior Nationals. When they argue about Sara and what she would have done, Coach Kessler breaks and explains that he's worried that if he loosens his grip on Emily and continues to let her run off with a boy, that he would lose her much like he had lost his other daughter.

The night before the dance and Junior Nationals he gives Emily a new phone (since he had broken her other one) and her blue Homecoming dress explaining that after talking it out with his wife, he decided he couldn't live his swimming days through her anymore if that's not what she wanted to do. He promises to allow the times to be more flexible and allows her to stay out later than usual. When she is brought to Junior Nationals by her friends and Ben, he is proud and excited for his daughter when he sees her and is among the many to cheer for her when she wins and sets a new record.

A New StartEdit

Taking place a month after the novels events, Coach Kessler remains the swim coach at Twin Branches and continues to have a protective hold over his daughter.

Knowing that Emily has gotten back together with Ben Kale, he remains skeptical about Ben's intentions and character. Judging him based off his partier reputation around school, Paul is unconvinced that Ben is serious about anything in life, his daughter included. Confronted by him one day after practice, Coach is surprised by Ben approaching him for a chance to prove that he's good for Emily. Inviting him over for dinner, the Coach uses the opportunity to get to know Ben and evaluate him. By the end of the night, Paul grants the couple his blessing while still holding to the expectation that Emily keeps her swimming and academics as first priority.

Later that month, Paul organizes a swim retreat for his team in order to encourage and inspire teamwork and teambuilding. During a hike he plans for the team to take, Emily and Cameron Clark get left behind and subsequently get lost. Out of concern, Coach orders everyone to stay where they are while he goes out on a search for them.

After news of Ben stealing a gargoyle to help a friend reaches Paul, he quickly reverts back to his original dislike and suspicion of Ben. Hearing over dinner that Ben is planning to try out for the school basketball team, the two begin to bond over basketball. While Ben's decision to join the team was only prompted by wanting to impress Paul, Paul's enthusiasm and attention motivates him to continue. Paul's strengthened relationship with Ben and Ben's want to impress him begins to annoy Emily, causing her to argue with him. Ben's enjoyment of Paul's company is explained to be because of his search of a fatherly figure and a replacement for his own distant father.



Emily KesslerEdit

I've already lost one daughter. I'm not going to lose another.

–Coach Kessler to Emily, Swim Retreat, Part 2

Inspired by his own success in the Olympics, Coach Kessler has raised his daughters with that same level of expectations for their futures. Training his daughters to be the best they can be, much of his attention was put on Sara before her accident. Experiencing the death of his eldest daughter motivated a much stricter, protective hold of his last daughter, Emily. Putting her through the same diet and training regime as Sara, Coach Kessler pushed Emily the hardest at her swim practices. Restricting her from dating, as her tight schedule would never allow time for that type of commitment, he felt angry and betrayed when he discovered that she was in a secret relationship with Ben Kale in Surviving High School: The Novel. It is revealed much later during the novel that his protective hold and behaviour stems from his fear of losing Emily much like he lost Sara.

Aside from his strict ways, Emily's well-being is extremely important to him. When she and Cameron become lost on a swim team retreat, Coach Kessler became very concerned and went out on his own to look for them. He also invited Ben over to dinner multiple times in order to get to know her boyfriend and didn't approve until he was certain that Ben was serious about his relationship with Emily. It is also mentioned by Dominique Clarke that he paid more attention to Emily during swim practice than the rest of the team.

Sara KesslerEdit

All throughout Sara's life, specifically while she was a teenager, Coach Kessler and his daughter, Sara, always had a strained relationship. While Coach Kessler was extremely proud of Sara and her accomplishments, he was also very demanding from Sara. He would tend to get very angry with her, if she was seconds off her swimming record.

Aside from that, he disapproved many of the activities Sara was involved in that could distract Sara from swimming. For example, during season 7 of The New Girl, when Sara is elected a Homecoming Princess, Coach forbids her from going to the dance. Also, in season 11 of The New Girl, The Election, Coach does the same thing, but specifically for the purposes that her campaign manager was a boy, Nick Brown. Coach believed Nick and Sara would end up having romantic feelings for each other, which did in fact happen.

Sara's death made a significant impact on Coach. He felt remorseful for always pressuring Sara to do better than before. Her death made Coach go easier on Emily, as he did not want his and Emily's relationship to end up, like his and Sara's.


Nick BrownEdit

After his daughter Sara died while driving in Nick's car, Coach Kessler blamed her death on Nick during the months following the accident. Coach Kessler banned Nick's name from being spoken in his household and just the mention of his name made him angry.

Ben KaleEdit

I know your kind, Kale. You've got quite a reputation around here. You're the party guy. You just want to have fun, and everything's a joke to you.

Coach Kessler dislikes Ben due to his popularity and his frequent partying behavior. Afraid he would only distract Emily from her goals and a future in swimming, Coach Kessler disapproved of Ben's interest in her and forced his daughter to breakup with him in the novel. When he finds out that the two have reconciled, Paul decides to give him a chance to impress him per Ben's request.

After bonding with Ben over their apparent shared interest in basketball (an act that was unauthentic on Ben's part in order to impress him), Paul quickly becomes a father figure in Ben's life and takes pride in his daughter's boyfriend when he tries out for and makes the school's basketball team. This new relationship is welcomed by Ben who begins to see it as compensation for the lack of attention he gets from his own absent and workaholic father.

Coach Kessler's approval and liking of Ben fluctuates depending on how successful the basketball season goes, them losing leading to Coach Kessler reverting back to acting cold and a win meaning an enthusiastic parent.


Coach Kessler is the swimming coach at Twin Branches High and is possibly the strictest of coaches at the school. He is particularly infamous for his austere code of conduct that he planted on his two children, Sara and Emily, and even on the swim team themselves. He disapproves of his kids and the team participating in other activities, as it takes away time to practice.

Despite this, Coach Kessler is also loving and caring. He can be compromising, such as when Sara wanted to go to Homecoming, as she was one of the princesses. Aside from this, he has grown to be more protective, such as when he rescued Emily after nearly drowning in Surviving High School: The Novel.


Coach Kessler has a Widow's Peak hairline, which pushes all of his brown hair back and a few wrinkles, an indication of his old age. He has blue eyes and wears a collar shirt of the same color.