Volume 93, Issue 62

Thursday, Janurary 20, 2000


Wrestling the real facts on Tak

A different kind of coaching

To Dan Marino - hang up your spikes of leave Miami

A different kind of coaching

By Sean Maraj
Gazette Staff

Have you heard the one about the coach who is a student too? Well for several teams at Western, this isn't a joke. Students coaches are prevalent, although relatively unknown, for a great number of smaller Western teams.

For most student athletes, playing on a varsity team and balancing school is hard enough. However, adding coaching responsibilities to a student's time table often means a greater time commitment and a higher level of involvement.

"Trying to manage time, getting the paperwork done and getting the practices ready," said Sarah Gravel, assistant coach of Western's synchronized swimming team, when asked of the hardest part of the student/coach combination.

She said during the team's season, mapping out a personal schedule ahead of time was the key to her success. "I had to plan everyday," Gravel said. "I had school during the day and practice at night, I did the paperwork during breaks."

Karen Murtaugh, former captain of the women's field hockey team and currently their assistant coach, agreed with Gravel that the jump from student athlete to student coach can be a big one.

"I was an athlete before and there is a lot of extra stuff in coaching, like organizing and planning practices. Because I'm a graduate student, my time is pretty flexible – but if you start counting the hours, you just don't want to be here anymore," she said.

Personal relationships can add extra stress to the job of student coach, said Hilary Brandon, head coach of the synchronized swimming team. "The hardest part is that I'm their peer and their coach. It's sometimes hard to be tough in the pool and then be their friend," Brandon said.

This aspect of the student/coach job description is a crucial one which is needed to keep the team functioning at a high level. A coach for any team needs to be able to control and direct the members of their squad, therefore making the player/coach hierarchy critical. This division can be hard for a student coach to maintain, Gravel said.

"I had problems in my second year [as coach], because of fourth-year swimmers. It is difficult especially when they're older and more experienced swimmers," Gravel said.

Murtaugh added she also has to attack this problem when exerting authority over athletes. "It's a strange situation because I played with them. There were times when I ran practice, when I had to assume a different role," she said.

As for solutions to this problem, Brandon said it is best to keep the role of coach and the role of friend separate from each other. "We form a relationship that's different in the pool from outside the pool."

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