Taking a job coaching at a college just after one’s own graduation is a unique position to be in. This is especially true on our campus due to the location and size of the school. Coaches come to Williamstown from all different types of colleges soon after graduation to start their careers. Having just completed their own four years, these coaches have a distinct perspective on life in the purple bubble – particularly because Williamstown doesn’t draw in as many recent grads as, well, other towns. So, what is it that draws these coaches to the College, and how do the unique perspectives these coaches arrive on campus with shape their experiences here?
Mary Clare (MC) Snediker, assistant coach of both field hockey and women’s lacrosse, graduated from Colby in 2009. While Waterville, Maine, is also a small town, Snediker said she “was still worried that going to school in a small town and living in one after graduation [would be] two very different things.” However, she has come to realize that assistant coaches have “the benefit of living in a college town, with all it has to offer, without having papers to write and exams to study for!”
Women’s soccer Assistant Coach Sarah Bromley remarked that her experiences have been very similar to Snediker’s. “I actually went to a school that was very similar to Williams in terms of location,” she said. “I don’t think I actually realized what it was like to live in a small town until I was outside of the college bubble.” Bromley graduated from Dartmouth last spring.
Assistant coaches have responsibilities both in and out of season. Although NESCAC rules are strict and coaches are not able to work with their athletes out of season, Snediker explained that coaches also have many tasks to complete off the field. “There is still a lot of office work, recruiting and preparation for the upcoming season that needs to get done in the off-season,” she said.
Bromley further articulated this point about their lives on and off campus. “Most of us have multiple jobs or are in school so we tend to keep pretty busy,” she said.
While assistant coaches may have other jobs, they are also fully invested in learning from the coaches they work with and giving to their athletes. “Like any healthy working relationship, you get to give a lot of yourself by making a difference in your program,” Snediker explained. “And also you take something for yourself by learning from your head coaches and ultimately becoming a better coach yourself.”
Bromley offered similar sentiments: “At the end of the day, I love getting to see a team through from the nerves of preseason to post-season play; I love to watch game tape and strategize our next move as a team in the weeks leading up to a big game; and I love talking to players and helping them to be successful in something they truly care about,” she said. “I think that, for me, those are the things that make what I do so worth it.”
Snediker also explained that there are a range of professional development opportunities offered to assistant coaches, particularly in a small, tight-knit community such as that at the College. “[Head Swim Coach] Steve Kuster organizes for people in our department and other departments around campus to come in and speak with us about different topics from recruiting to athletic training to team building,” she said.
When they have free time, assistant coaches manage to find ways to occupy their time, even in such a small town. Bromley offered insight into what she and the other assistant coac-hes spend their downtime doing. “When we are free, we are pretty mellow – [we] usually go to movies or try out a new cooking recipe or go for a hike. There really is a limited number of things to do in the area, so we just try to branch out and be creative.”
Snediker echoed many of Bromley’s sentiments. “While I can’t say there has never been a dull moment over the past year and a half and small town living is certainly not for everyone, I can say that it has been a surprisingly good fit for me,” she said. Although Snediker believed during college that her plans would take her somewhere closer to her hometown of New Canaan, Conn., such as the ever-popular post-graduation destination of New York City, she said that she realizes now that she is okay with her change of plans. For Snediker, the choice to come to Williams was one of family ties. “My brother went here [he graduated in ’98], and when I chose to go to Colby, there was a running joke in my family that I would still wind up at Williams in some capacity. So here I am, and I’m very happy to be here.”
Snediker had no trouble articulating why she came to the College to start her career. “You get to work with student-athletes with incredibly high standards and a commitment to and familiarity with excellence,” she said. “For me in particular, I get to coach in one of the top conferences in Div. III for the sports that I coach.”
By virtue of the small community here at the College, the relationships that assistant coaches have with their athletes are unique – particularly because with coaches just past graduation themselves, there is only a slight age difference between coach and athlete. “For the most part, I see being close in age to my athletes as more of a virtue than a detriment,” Snediker said. “I can understand their struggles and triumphs because I was just in their position. So in one sense, it helps me to understand them, which is a huge part of coaching, and in another sense, I think, and hope, it makes me more accessible to them. They feel comfortable talking to me, and I can provide a bridge between them and the head coach.”
Bromley also alluded to the benefits of being a young coach. “I felt like I could talk to our players and approach them about things without there being an intimidation factor,” she said. “So, while I was cautious to draw a clear line, I tried to use my young age to my advantage.”
While the assistant coaches form strong relationships with their athletes, they also bond with each other. “We bounce ideas off of each other, and at the end of the day are always rooting for each other,” Snediker said. “Over the past year, I have met some people who have extremely bright futures in coaching.”
Snediker and Bromley live in a college-owned house with two women’s basketball assistant coaches, Jen Chuks and Cassie Loftus. “It’s awesome living with people who are just as passionate about what you’re passionate about,” Snediker said. “We have a lot of fun together, and they are great sounding boards for all things, not just coaching-related. I was nervous coming into the situation of living with three strangers, but we were all college athletes, are on similar career paths and clearly something drew all of us to Williams, so I should have known we would have more in common than I thought.”
Bromley echoed Snediker’s positive sentiments – and confirmed that, even if one does return to campus after graduation, some things do change: “It is different than the house I lived in during college, definitely cleaner – we actually do chores and vacuum sometimes, and we cook at home most nights.”