Kerr: Coaching Changes Test Character, Team Resilience
Many onlookers perceive coaching changes in college sports in a negative way, immediately assuming that changes are potentially disruptive to team dynamics. This, however, has not been my experience as a student-athlete.
Coaching changes bring student-athletes exposure to different approaches to the game. They also allow for teams to come closer together in the midst of the changes. We student-athletes learn to bind together in the face of change to become better and rely on each other more for support.
When I was going through the recruiting process, I was recruited by a coaching staff that wasn’t there when I went for my official visit as a senior in high school. When I entered into my freshman year of college, the assistant coach and pitching coach were different from the coaches I had met on my official visit. At the start of my sophomore year, I was notified that we would be receiving an entirely new coaching staff. Now that I am entering my senior year, our assistant coach is leaving and we will be working with a new coach this coming season.
All of these changes do require a lot of acclimation. When new coaches arrive, you must first learn who they are as people and then learn their values and coaching philosophies. What coaches find important will also impact team culture. Many times you will see that with coaching changes come players transferring and recruits looking for new teams. This is because softball philosophies and individual values will differ between coaches, and those who aren’t aligned may choose to leave in search of something they are more personally aligned with.
This type of change requires you to adapt as a player. Each coaching change I've been through has made me a better player, as my mind has been broadened by many different perspectives, each contributing to my ability to see the game through a different lens.
The greatest part of the game for me has always been the bond I have with my teammates. It feels amazing to hit in a game-winning run or make a stellar defensive play, but those moments are not constants or guaranteed.
My teammates are my constants, though. I know I can rely on them. And while I know they could transfer and they will eventually graduate, their lives and our relationships are not dependent on my performance. I can trust that they will push me and also have my best interests in mind because we have learned to rely on each other.
This type of team bond has created a resilience within us that no coach can teach or shake. Experiencing all of these coaching changes has required us to adapt, relearn and reform ourselves.
It hasn’t always been pleasant, and it certainly isn't easy, but we have learned just how strong we really are through these experiences. We’ve been through many changes and defeats, but we are resilient and building character along our journey in college softball.
Regan Kerr was a Summer 2021 intern for Softball America. She is a senior on Maryland's softball team and plays in the infield for the Terrapins. She is a Phoenix, Ariz. native.