Featured / Sports / The Prairie Fire / May 6, 2015

Youth a red flag for Knox

It is safe to say that the supposed new era of prosperity for both Track and Women’s Soccer has not started out with a strong first step. Both have faced unsavory results in conference and the loss of more than eight players per team in a single season. While there is no sole reason why both teams have faced such disappointments, much can be attributed to the new coaches and the stylistic changes each has brought to their respective team.

Track, currently in their first outdoor season with new Head Coach Randy Overby, has seen upwards of 15 players walk over the course of the last two terms, which encompasses both the indoor and outdoor seasons. This provides quite the stark contrast when compared to the usual two to three person losses between the indoor and outdoor seasons.

This shortfall can be attributed, in part, to the new rigorous coaching style of Overby, according to former Track Captain and senior Ian Horne.

“The time commitment has gone up substantially,” Horne said. “It used to be, at maximum, four hours a day, no matter what, and at this point it’s four hours a day minimum. Some days, it has gone as high as seven. There have been days where he has kept us in the field house until after 8 p.m.”

The increase in time commitment and rigorous training has left the sprinting team with a fraction of their original squad, while distance and throwers have lost just one or two.

Coach Overby, in the process of completing his first year coaching at Knox, brings an impressive track record: Overby has coached an Olympic gold medalist, and pumped out high-quality teams year after year while an assistant coach at the Division I level at Capital University in Columbus.

“This team has not been pushed to the level he’s seen people pushed before, and I think he doesn’t quite realize how long term of a process it takes to make a very good team,” Horne said. “People get stressed out because they can’t hit the times he’s expecting, and there are practices where we’ll run 200s or 400s on repeat, and we’re supposed to hit a certain time each one, and halfway through, even the fastest kids on the entire team aren’t even close.”

With differing styles, both Overby and the team have yet to strike a balance in their season. 

 Head Coach Paul Lawrence came to Knox with high aspirations, but his first season fell flat as the team went 3-14 overall and 0-10 in conference. (TKS Archives)

Head Coach Paul Lawrence came to Knox with high aspirations, but his first season fell flat as the team went 3-14 overall and 0-10 in conference. (TKS Archives)

Strong parallels can be drawn between the struggles of the Track team and those of women’s soccer. Women’s soccer lost a total of 10 players from their season in the fall to their current spring season. This presents a problem, and is an unusually high number in comparison to the past three seasons, according to former player and senior Nadia Tapfumaneyi.

A disconnect of reasoning as to why players left is apparent in speaking to Head Women’s Soccer Coach Paul Lawrence.

“For the upperclassmen who made the decision to leave throughout the season, it came down to the fact that we were changing many aspects of the program… Sometimes the level of commitment we now require the student athletes to put forth was becoming a little bit more of a strain on their academic life,” Lawrence said.

Tapfumaneyi, on the other hand, explains, “I just felt my talent was wasted … we lost players consistently from the time we started, and we didn’t treat the people who came in, and were willing to work, nicely. It was a series of people quitting and that was no fun. I don’t want to have to learn how to be someone else’s teammate every other day. It just gets exhausting.”

Unable to agree on the general motive as to why players were leaving, both Lawrence and Tapfumaneyi made it clear that the ever-changing members created strain on the team’s bond.

Each team recognizes the vast majority of athletes quitting are upperclassmen. The reason for this change, it seems, can be attributed to the growth of the culture of each sport, one where more time is going to be demanded of each athlete.

Some athletes who have left, however, feel this is not entirely true. Rather, their opinion is that both coaches could have handled certain situations better.

“I think that so many people that did love the sport, quitting during Overby’s time shows something serious: that he is not doing what works for Knox. He’s learning that he needs to be more flexible,” a former track team member said.

Lawrence, on the other hand, features a different set of growing pains, according to Tapfumaneyi.

“[Lawrence] often made hasty decisions, such as choosing captains the day he came on campus,” Tapfumaneyi said. Both captains simply became another statistic, and also left the team during the fall season. Lawrence admits, looking back, that certain decisions could have been made with more care, waiting until this spring to see clear leaders emerge before giving out titles.

With a large chunk of each roster no longer present, Overby and Lawrence have increased their recruitment for the coming seasons, aware they each have many positions to fill.

“We need to bring in a class for 2015 that has the depth to challenge the current players that will remain with us for 2015,” Lawrence said. “We’re looking to add to the quality that we already have and start to create competition for places in every position.”

For Lawrence's plans to come to fruition, underclassmen like Kayla Brown will need to continue to find success. Brown led the team with nine goals. (TKS Archives)

For Lawrence’s plans to come to fruition, underclassmen like Kayla Brown will need to continue to find success. Brown led the team with nine goals. (TKS Archives)

It is apparent both coaches are looking forward, continuing towards their goals of improving their programs and attempting to move past the mishaps of this past year.

“He’s been targeting a very wide group of people, and I’ve personally made calls to two or three people myself for recruiting … he’s reaching out to kids in Eastern Europe to come here. He definitely seems to be attempting to bring in a large freshman class,” Horne said of Overby.

With such young teams, only freshmen and sophomores in the case of Women’s soccer, Knox will have to wait and see what these teams have to offer. Each team will assuredly consist of many new faces, perhaps better equipped to commit to these new coaches and the programs they are beginning to build, as the coaches hope will happen.

Even so, past years’ records provide little support for these hypotheses. In terms of athletics, experience and maturity tend to prevail over numbers and energy. Still, if the high volume of new recruits can stick, Lawrence and Overby are primed for success in years to come.

Sam Watkins

Tags:  ian horne Nadia Tapfumaneyi Paul lawrence randy overby

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