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What It's Like To Go Through Multiple Coaching Changes

nicole elliott photo by paul penders.jpg
(Photo by Paul Penders)

Nicole Elliott is a spring intern for Softball America and a junior infielder for Misericordia University at the Division III level of college softball.

Experiencing coaching changes as a collegiate student-athlete can bring up many doubts and concerns about the future of a program. As someone who has experienced multiple coaching changes during my time as a college softball player, it opens up doors for opportunities and growth if you embrace the process.

Throughout my recruiting process, the coaching staff was one of my deciding factors when choosing the school I did. I came into my first year with that coaching staff and got acclimated to what it takes to play for a winning program under certain coaching styles. After that season, I was faced with my head coach stepping away prior to my sophomore year. Due to the late head coaching search process, our program hired an interim head coach.

After that season, we cleared out our coaching staff and hired an all new staff. Now, I’m in my junior season, playing under a coaching staff that I did not come here to play for, but I couldn’t be more grateful for the lessons that my team and I have learned throughout this process.

Going through this many coaching changes in such a short amount of time can leave a team feeling uncomfortable and questioning the future of the program. As a team, you have to stay true to your culture. Recruits and teammates are going to leave and transfer when the team faces a coaching change because the new staff may not align with their own values or beliefs.

Every coach brings in a different perspective to the game, and it’s important to understand as a student-athlete that you need to have an open mind. It’s easy to shut out new leadership because it isn’t what you are used to hearing, but sometimes adapting is the best thing to help you grow as a player and team overall.

Each season will be different, and it’s important to flush past seasons and issues as best you can. Keep that chip on your shoulder, but accept that the team dynamic can be different without it being a bad thing.

Change can allow a team to grow, but it can also destroy a team’s culture. A team that has strong leadership and values among the players will see change as an opportunity rather than the end of a journey.

If a team can build a bond from within when a major change happens, it prevents minor shake-ups from rattling an entire team at its core. This translates to critical in-game moments when it matters most. Learn from and feed off of the relationships you have within your team.

My team faced doubts from within our own conference, but we didn’t let it impact our drive and our own perspective. No one truly knew what we were going through, and we knew that in order to block out that outside noise, we needed to rely on ourselves for support and motivation.

Facing adversity when coaching changes happen isn’t easy, but my team and I have learned what it takes to become strong in the mental game of softball. I’ve had my own doubts year to year, but the life lessons that I’ve learned will always stick with me. Coaching changes seemed like huge obstacles, but were minor issues in the end that helped build resilience throughout my college softball career.

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