Tell me a little bit about why you started coaching water polo?
When I graduated from St. Francis, I wasn't ready to be finished with the sport that had brought me so much. Water polo had been such a major part of my life, I didn't know what I would do without it, and when I graduated my coach asked me if I would like to be the assistant coach the following year. I jumped at the opportunity, knowing that I could be there to help other student athletes as they trained hard to pursue their goals was something that I didn't actually know I wanted to do until I was given that opportunity.
Did you ever feel that being a woman was a hindrance in water polo? Do you see a lack of representation of women coaches in collegiate athletics a problem? In terms of coaching, do you think gender ever comes into play?
I don't think I feel that being a woman is a hindrance...as long as you're the right woman or doing something at the right time. Do I feel that in many situations would things be different if I was a man, yes. Lack of representation? Without a doubt, there are only 2 female head coaches in my conference, and maybe only 4 or 5 others on the West Coast. I think female coaches tend to stay in the Assistant position, and are either never given the chance, or looked over for the positions.
Does gender come into play in games? Absolutely! Refs never hear me, if I am asking about a call- they say I'm whining, if I dispute a call- they must assert their dominance and put me in my place, all the while the male coach on the other bench can shout and curse all he wants with no issue! Now this is not all refs, but a good majority of them would rather I sat down and stayed quite the whole game.
What advice would you give women who wish to enter coaching?
Do it! Don't be afraid that maybe you are the first/only one. Young girls need to see that if they want to further their athletic career and help the next generation, they can. Just because it's not the norm, doesn't mean it shouldn't be done!
What do you love about coaching water polo, especially coaching college women?
I love spreading my love for the game. I love when my team works on something in practice, then they do it in a game and it works! I love helping them to learn about each other and become teammates. At the collegiate level, it's all about how to take the best athletes from many different backgrounds and skill levels and make the best team you can. It's about taking what they already know and taking the best part of each of them and making something great. Collegiate women are passionate and hardworking, they are driven and I love harnessing that drive and helping them be successful!
Do you have a mentor in water polo/coaching? If so, what is their gender? Do you think female mentorship would help increase visibility of women coaches?
I think I mostly look up to the coaches who trained me. I had a female coach in High School, Janell Odom, she taught me so much about the game as well as how to be a team. I didn't start playing until I was a freshman in high school, and so I had a lot of learning to do. Janell taught me to love the sport and that made the hard work easier. In College, at St. Francis I had a female coach for part of the time as well, Jesse Gunderson. She taught me that even if I was not as fast as, or as strong as the person I was going up against, I could be faster than or stronger then them if I played smarter then them. She inspired me to begin playing for NYAC and then be able to travel with the best club in the nation to play this game I love!
I think for most of my athletes, I am their first female coach, and it's a hard transition for them at first. I think having a coach who understands what they go through in an emotional, physical, and physiological way is beneficial for them and would ultimately help them become better Water Polo players.
I am part of the WOWPAC, Women of Water Polo and Coaching, which was started by Susan Ortwine of Stanford University, and Karen Crawford of UCSD, among others who felt the need for female coaches in all levels, to come together and learn from each other, and help one another, and figure out how to help this sport grow among girls across the country. There is a need for this sport to grow on the female side, and we need female coaches to help make that push forward.