The hunt for new swimming, soccer and tennis coaches is underway in the Athletic Department. The search committees are all aiming to fill the three positions by April 30 and hoping to let students know their decisions before the end of the semester.
Men’s and women’s tennis Head Coach Troy Hanestad stepped down last August. He was followed this year by the women’s soccer Head Coach Dan Weiler, who stepped down the beginning of March, and women’s swimming and diving Head Coach Julie Lucier, who stepped down a week later. The Athletic Department has been hurrying to find three new coaches to fill their shoes ever since.
Three search committees comprised of about five people each have been formed to scout for new coaches. On each committee is Athletic Director Rich Glas, Associate Athletic Director Rachel Bergeson, an Athletic Department member with a connection to the sport, at least one student athlete from the sport and a faculty member from another department.
Bergeson said that by having a diverse search committee, the athletic faculty can work as efficiently as possible to sift through applicants and choose the best fit for Concordia.
“Our hope is to have someone in place for all three of them prior to the end of school so that we can tell kids, ‘This is going to be your next coach,’” Bergerson said. “Then they know going into summer that they can expect this person to be here when they return.”
Bergeson said that although it was hard to lose such dedicated head coaches, she thinks the search is an exciting opportunity to find another great member of the Cobber athletic family. This search has a three-step process that the committees utilize as a guideline for filtering through applicants and finding the appropriate candidate.
Bergeson said that the first step in the search is posting the position description in a variety of places. The search committees have posted job descriptions on Concordia’s website, the NCAA market, and have sent out descriptions to MIAC conference schools and other similar Division III schools.
Bergeson said the NCAA market is a great tool to use to reach out to the national audience, and by sending the position out to other MIAC conference schools and “like” schools they can reach similar assistant coaches or coaches that may be thinking of leaving.
Since Concordia is a Division III school, Bergeson said that for coaches just starting out, a position with Concordia could be seen as stepping-stone to a higher level of athletic competition of either Division I or II schools. In recent years, however, Division II has been getting smaller due to more and more schools switching to either DI or DIII. Bergeson said that this has prompted many Division II coaches to look for Division III coaching jobs. Therefore, she said, the search teams have seen quite a diverse pool of candidates this year.
Glas said the second step in the search process is waiting about a week and a half before reaching out to candidates, and then conducting phone interviews with candidates that fit a preliminary coaching criteria specified by both Glas and Bergeson.
Bergeson and Glas have a preliminary coaching criteria checklist that they use when screening applicants. They would like to see that a candidate fits with Concordia’s mission statement, understands of NCAA Division III philosophy, has coaching experience and has recruiting experience.
After the phone interviews are done, the committee gets together to talk about each candidate and who should move forward in the process. Then they invite the most promising candidates onto campus for a visit and interview.
The candidate meets their prospective team, and the athletes write an evaluation of him or her. They also meet with President Craft, Provost Mark Krejci, the chair of the department if the candidate might teach classes as well, and with the Admissions Office.
This allows the search committees to get good feedback from diverse sources so that they can make an informed decision about who they will hire, Bergeson said.
“The point of the campus visit is we really just want to see the candidate in person and have everybody get a feel for them,” Glas said. “You never really know what someone is really like until they come and visit. Then we can see if they will really fit in the Cobber atmosphere or not.”
Bergeson said that it will be nice to get some new blood in the athletic department.
“We don’t have a lot of turnover here at Concordia,” Bergeson said, “So when I came here seven years ago the same people that were here from when I was in elementary school were still here, and now they are retiring and shifting roles, which is great because that means they were happy here, but hiring comes in waves and this is the next one for the athletic department.”
Last Friday, the search committee invited three applicants for the women’s swimming and diving coach position onto campus, they have already had some prospective women’s soccer coach candidates visit campus. However, no tennis coach candidates have yet visited.
“Filling the tennis position has been tricky because the tennis season is still going on and even if they accept the job they may not want others to know until the season is over,” Glas said. “We respect this, but it makes it hard to know exactly what candidates are out there if they are busy coaching now.”
But while the search committee is out there finding the right person for the job, there is also someone at home who has to fill the shoes.
After the Cobber tennis coach left, Andrea Rognlien, a 2012 graduate, was hired as the men’s and women’s interim coach. She agreed to serve in the position for a year before a new coach could be hired.
In her time at Concordia, Rognlien won the Chris Evret Award for the MIAC. Upon taking the role of Concordia tennis coach, she became the youngest head coach in NCAA history.
This season, Rognlien has been assisted by Concordia music Professor Jeff Meyer, who is himself a tennis player.
“It is a unique opportunity for me because being involved in the music atmosphere, I don’t get to really participate in the sports side of things,” Meyer said. “But I’ve been around tennis a lot with my kids, and I did do some USTA coaching, so I am glad to fill in for Andrea when she can’t be there.”
Meyer has helped by substituting for Rognlien at matches and practices and assisting her with coaching. Meyer also drives the van to meets, stops by practices to check in with the players, and is mostly a helpful presence to the athletes.
“I do what I am able to do which is be a positive encouragement to the players,” Meyer said. “But because of the lack of a full time head coach all the players have had to step up and take leadership roles upon themselves, especially the seniors. So this experience has really been a growing experience for the team and made everyone become a little more committed and dedicated to the team.”
Meyer said he thinks the next tennis coach needs to be a good teacher of tennis, understand that tennis for Concordia students is only one piece of their collegiate life and needs to relate to college students while being able to teach them valuable life lessons.
Glas said he hopes all of these qualities are met in the each of the new coaches. However, the committees are still deliberating and nothing has been set in stone concerning a future head coach for any of the positions.
“…(I)t is quite an ongoing process, because we want to find the best for Concordia,” Glas said. “Since (that) is exactly what our athletes deserve, the best.”