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Coach turnover turmoil tampers with athletes anxiety

By Olivia Panneco

Coaches are leaders, recruiters, motivators and disciplinarians. They are integral to a team’s success, but what happens to a team when there is no coach?

I am a junior on the women’s volleyball team and I recently experienced a coaching change. The loss of a coach and waiting for a new coach to be hired has been difficult for me and our entire team and this has happened to other teams at RU too.

According to my research, in the past five years, RU has lost more than eight coaches — impacting bowling, volleyball, men’s soccer, golf, lacrosse, softball, track and field. Some of these teams have even lost multiple coaches.

When coaches quit or get fired, the discussion centers around what happened and who is coming in next, but the effects on a team and individual players are important and should not be overlooked.

Men’s soccer recently went through a coaching change, and this wasn’t the first transition the team experienced. Junior soccer player Martin Ivezaj said it's not easy going from coach to coach and trying to build trust again. “I have been through three coaches at RU, and it has affected me mentally because I didn’t know who would come and how it would affect my playing time,” he said.

Athletes can be concerned about playing time, connection to a new coach and wondering what is next. A new coach doesn’t know who you are, how you play, or what to expect from you, so you are starting all over and that is pressure.

Losing a coach at the end of a season is difficult, but when you are halfway through a season and your coach abandons you, it is even more difficult. Imagine one day you are competing in a competition with a coach and the next day, he or she is gone.

Players can step up and help, but life without a coach is limiting, said Lynzie Kirkendall, a junior on the bowling team.

“I think the mental health aspect as a college athlete waiting for a new coach to take over is so much anxiety,” Kirkendall said. “I experienced this along with my teammates because we were left without a coach in the middle of our season. We were a self-lead team for about two months before we were placed in the hands of a new coach. Even once we had a new coach, a lot of my team held the same amount of anxiety until we were able to gain trust in our new coach who has now provided all of us with amazing opportunities.”

Having a healthy relationship with a coach is critical, and this takes time to build — what happens when it falls apart in what feels like seconds?

Brett Malinowski, senior track and field athlete, said, “Having a connection with a coach is hard to build in the first place. It takes a lot of time, trust and dedication from both sides. When you realize you have built that connection and that coach leaves, it can feel like part of you as the athlete is gone as well.”

Losing a coach is something that is hard to prepare for, whether you wanted them gone or not. Athletes may start to question if they will be good enough for the next coach and put pressure on themselves to be perfect.

While coaching changes can be difficult to endure, athletes can use the situation as motivation to be better.

“Our end with our last coach is a beginning with our new coach,” said junior volleyball player Olivia Francis. “We’ll demonstrate our resiliency as we embark on a new season—my final one at RU. I am committed to being the best player and teammate that I can be. We will find success on and off the court because we are Warriors.”

The impact a coach can have on an athlete, both positive and negative, is life changing and when they leave, so can your love for that sport. Coaches leaving has caused some athletes to transfer from RU or quit altogether.

I believe the administration has done a better job of late in hiring good coaches full time. I encourage our university to continue putting more resources into hiring coaches and ensuring their success so that they can build strong and lasting programs.

This will benefit the university, the coach and, of course, student athletes.



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