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Opinion

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By Molly Humiston
Contributing Writer

Some athletic programs try on coaches like a new pair of shoes. Other programs keep a coach as if it were their favorite pair regardless of how well they fit. I have experienced both in ten years of field hockey. For my first years playing I had seven different coaches, one for each year I played prior to college. The field hockey program in my hometown has suffered immensely with no consistency and little funding to anchor it among developing athletes. Like new shoes on a shelf, coaches came and went.

I had thought that this lack of consistency would be the greatest hiccup in my athletic career.

I was wrong.

A consistency in staff can also be the demise of a program. I know because it is killing mine.

The team itself changes every year. But every year the coaches remain the same, regardless of the previous year’s poor scores and our ever-growing mountain of aspirations relinquished.

For more than 21 years the same core coaching staff has stood on the sideline. Not even an assistant has changed. For the first five years, the program posted winning seasons and a full rotation of players, but for more than a decade, the program has maintained a losing record.

The trend exists across the athletic landscape at St. Michael’s, where the coaching staff remains unchanged even after years of losing records. Are we, the athletes, to blame, the coaches who guide us, or the college that sponsors us?

We’ve fallen into a defensive rut, and after denying 10 times as many shots as we take, the ball inevitably meets the boards with a definitive thwack.

In 20 years, SMC field hockey has tallied an overall record of 169-200 (wins-losses) with the 2019 season not yet included. Our season, with its ever-hopeful motto of “Find your fire,” was burdened with losses to teams we expected to beat. Our internal flames fizzled with each loss.

Following games, my team still gathers around in a semi-circle with expressions that vary from detached, sad, and angry to hear the same phrases once more: “Lots of learning today!” “Best game yet!”

The message never changes.

Our coaches, who no longer know how to guide us, let us down. This is not to say that the coaches are inadequate, it is rather that they are no longer the right fit.

Without funding and support, athletics can’t grow, coaches can’t improve. If they want to attract players, the college needs to invest in athletics.

Growing up, the news constantly reported coaches being cut from programs, both professional and collegiate, because they weren’t producing results. Even with teams that reel in wins, the core staff often includes change, introducing new perspectives and experience.

My team has had many talented athletes, but their ability to apply talents can only go as far as they are guided and given the chance to grow. This is the role we expect coaches to fill.

We play our hearts out, denying shot after shot, still hoping we might win, but the undercurrent of that hope is us wishing that we won’t be crushed.

The fire goes out.

Success for athletes comes in many forms, but the one that matters most in the longevity of a program, is winning. When the losses pile well beyond the wins the only way to tip the scale is to change the point of attack.

We need the college to put loyalty aside and open the doors to new coaches who can give us a chance of reclaiming what it means to be a Purple Knight. Athletes are the mouthpiece for their programs, give us a reason to be proud of them.

Molly Humiston ’21 is a Media Studies, Journalism & Digital Arts major, and a part of the field hockey team.