The long, grueling season has ended with a less than satisfactory taste for many on the team. Teammates make an agreement that next year will be the season to improve their rankings in conference, but the bad taste doesn’t stop there. The team is informed their coach will not be returning for the following season, leaving the team to begin again, forcing them to build new relationships with another coaching staff.
This has been the reality for more than a handful of Knox Athletic teams. Within the past year, the Knox Athletics Department has ushered in new head coaches practically across the board, including men and women’s soccer, track, softball, wrestling and soon to be volleyball. This influx in new coaches can be seen in two lights: either that positive change is coming, or that rough transitions are ahead.
The question begs to be answered: why are so many coaches leaving Knox? Athletic Director Chad Eisele postulates that it’s not Knox that’s driving coaches away, but rather that other positions are pulling them in.
“If you look at [Head Softball Coach] Sims, she’s a Monmouth grad, she went back to Monmouth in a different role,” Eisele said. “[Head Track Coach] Hanes, is an IC alum, he went back to be the track coach there … Coach Edwards did a great job with our soccer team, and took on a team that’s a national powerhouse, while MJ [women’s soccer] made moves for personal reasons.”
Eisele admits a group of coaches this size leaving within a year is unusual, but not unheard of, explaining that the coaching staff comes and goes in waves and that it is natural for coaches to feel drawn to their alma mater. Few know better than Eisele, a Knox grad.
In searching for new coaches, the interview process is thorough and intense. Candidates for each position must pass many levels of interviewing which include all other competitors in the phone interviews. From this, usually 2-4 candidates make it to campus.
“The dean of the college will interview them, the dean of students will interview them, someone from the admissions office will interview them, for some positions advancement office will interview them and the team will interview them. Even if it’s over the summer, they will set up a conference call so that students that are home can be a part of it,” Eisele said. “Then the entire athletic staff will interview the candidate as well. As the athletic director, I take everyone’s opinions and then I make a recommendation to the dean and the president and if they’re in agreement, that’s who we make the offer to.”
One of the most crucial interviews in this process is with the current team, who is left alone with the candidate for an hour to ask questions and get a sense of whether or not their goals and tactics align.
“When I met some of the girls at my interview, I was impressed with the energy and chemistry,” said new Head Softball Coach Erin Rutledge. “All the players seemed extremely eager to be part of the hiring process. The girls had a lot of great questions for me that let me know they were serious about the upcoming season.”
With such a rigorous interviewing process, Knox attempts to ensure that each coach hired is well equipped for the job and is a right fit for the team.
What drew many of these new coaches to Knox was the high level of academics Knox prides itself on.
“A month into my new post, it is clear that Knox Athletics, under Chad’s leadership, aims to match Knox academics in terms of prestige,” said new Men’s Soccer Coach Tyler Sheikh. ”And I don’t think the two necessarily need to be mutually exclusive.”
This is an important distinction for not only Knox athletes, but also the Knox community. The concept that an individual can be actively involved and successful not just in academics, but in various clubs, sports and organizations is important to President Teresa Amott.
“President Amott understands that for Knox to be the most successful college that it can be, that means all aspects, not just the education and the academic programs, but it’s also the other things that go along with being a college and athletics happens to be part of that,” Eisele said.
As the new coaches settle in, some faster than others due to their sport’s season, they are able to work on goals and improvements for their teams as well as goals and improvements collectively for the Athletic Department. With many new additions to its staff, Knox Athletics can be sure to see some positive changes.
“When I came on [staff] there was a lot of talk about growing the department, really changing the standards,” new Head Wrestling Coach Matt Lowers said. “I thought it was really refreshing in a way. There were a lot of new people with new ideas, and a lot of energy moving forward.”
A recurring goal of each new coach is to build their roster, with each and every coach explaining that one of their biggest pushes is recruiting more players each year than has previously been done. Still, many of the teams are just barely large enough to play. As such, one of the strongest characteristics of the newly added coaches is often their ability to successfully recruit an abundant number of highly competitive athletes for upcoming years.
Lowers explains that “we want people coming in with their sights set at the highest levels,” proving Knox is changing the culture and mindset of athletics. The comfortability is also there, according to Eisele.
“I would say that our athletic staff today is closer than it has been,” he said. “We have a lot of coaches that not only support each other in their games, but also see each other socially, more so than I have seen in my nine years here. Just like an athletic team, an athletic staff that works together is just a better situation for everyone.”