For the 2010-2011 school year, the Elizabethtown College Blue Jays fared well at both the conference and national level. Five teams grabbed their conference titles, and 28 athletes were individual conference champions. Five students were named conference Players of the Year, and three more achieved Rookie of the Year status.
Many other Blue Jays made All-Conference, All-Region and even All-American teams, and because of this excellence, four head coaches received conference Coach of the Year status: Terry Corcoran— lacrosse, Matt Helsel —tennis, Randall Kreider— volleyball and Chris Straub— men’s cross country.
While head coaches most definitely deserve such accolades for their commitment to Etown athletic programs, an integral part of any athletic team often goes ignored: the work of assistant coaches. They won’t ever win a major award, and recruits definitely won’t choose Etown because of an amazing assistant coach. However, these coaches still have an impact on their respective teams.
For Emily Swarr, the assistant coach for the tennis team, the appeal of being an assistant coach stemmed from past memories. “I played tennis at Etown, I graduated in 2010, so I really enjoy the sport,” Swarr said. “It’s great to be able to pass on the tips and strategies that I used and was taught when I played.”
Although assistant softball coach Trisha Johnson is not an alumna of Etown like Swarr; her love of softball compelled the Millersville University graduate to join the Blue Jays’ organization. “The attraction coaching holds for me is still being able to express my love for the game of softball and pass on my knowledge of the game to younger players,” Johnson said.
Strategically speaking, assistant coaches are extremely beneficial during practice times. Johnson stated that she usually works with the outfield during practice, as well as other miscellaneous duties. “Sometimes I pitch during a hitting drill, catch for pitchers or help with a drill. Whatever needs to be done,” she said. Swarr will lead practice for the men’s team if the women’s team is away for a match and vice versa.
Typically, assistant coaches can focus on one group of players, whether it be the defense, goalies, pitchers, etc. while the head coach works with another group. In addition, some recruiting and scouting responsibilities may be added to their plate. Assistant coaches can also be another source of motivation for players during practice.
However, assistant coaches also often serve as a different type of mentor to the teams. The relationship between a player and his or her assistant coach as opposed to the head coach is often very different.
“I feel as though players feel comfortable talking to me about things that don’t necessarily need to progress to the head coach,” Johnson said. “It also benefits me because I’m closer in age to the players. This brings a sense of being able to relate to certain situations, on and off the field.”
For Swarr, her current position as an assistant coach is perfect for her lifestyle, although she is unsure of whether she will try to pursue a full-time coaching job in the future. “I really enjoy what I do full time, I teach third grade, so I like being able to coach without it being a full time job,” she said.
However, Johnson does hope to be a head coach in the long run. “There’s no better feeling than seeing your team succeed and grow as players,” Johnson said, explaining her desire to move up to a head coach position.
While the paycheck of an assistant coach is definitely not a huge incentive for them to work at Etown, the spirit of Blue Jay athletics keeps Swarr and Johnson excited about their coaching responsibilities.
“I’ve always loved being a part of Blue Jay athletics, playing on the team myself for four years,” Swarr said. “It holds a lot of great memories for me, and I think it can only hold more.”
Johnson explained, “It’s a great accomplishment to see my players succeed and have fun while doing something they love. I love coming here every day and being a part of their journey.”