NESCAC alums balance school loyalties

Head Coach Kris Herman, a Tufts graduate, has coached softball at Williams for 11 years. Photo Credit / Sports Information
Head Coach Kris Herman, a Tufts graduate, has coached softball at Williams for 11 years. Photo Credit / Sports Information

The world of NESCAC coaching is a little bit like a small town, or the College itself: everyone knows each other.  Though they are fiercely competitive, the NESCAC coaches harbor a lot of respect for one another.   For coaches at the College who attended a NESCAC school other than Williams, the community of coaches is a little different.

Softball Head Coach Kris Herman studied at Tufts as an undergraduate and coached softball there for 16 seasons, from 1988 to 2004. In 2004, she accepted a job at Williams, Tuft’s biggest rival in the NESCAC since Herman began playing.

“In terms of Div. III schools with high achieving students, Williams is the gold standard,” Herman said.  She has never had regrets about making the switch. But she has had the unique experience of standing on the other side of her alma mater’s greatest rivalry.  She knows both of the Tufts coaches: In fact, she coached one of them, who subsequently worked for Herman as an assistant coach.  She recruited the other before leaving Tufts. In addition to the coaches, Herman is familiar with much of the athletic department and the staff at Tufts.  For her, however, the rivalry has stayed on the field.

“It’s a good rivalry between the players,” she said. “It’s not really about the coaches.”  If anything, she says she considers herself still a fan of Tufts, and she is happy to root for Tufts – when they aren’t playing her team, of course.

Squash Head Coach Zafi Levy ’01, a transfer student to the College, spent a year at the College’s fierce squash rival, Trinity, before coming to Williams. He says that though Trinity’s squash program is exceptional, due to differences in recruiting, he has no regrets at all about switching to the College. As a student, he preferred the Williams academic climate. As a coach, he believes that Williams is the best place to work: “Regardless of whether we win or lose, the College is the best place to work for the culture, the facilities, the students, the quality of life and the town, among other things,” Levy said.

The current coach at Trinity is the same one who recruited Levy, so the connection is there.  As far as having an advantage over Trinity because he spent a year with the school’s coach, however, Levy does not see that insight ever having helped him very much: As he put it, squash is an individual sport, and the philosophy of the coach does not translate to the match itself.

For women’s hockey Head Coach Meghan Gillis, who is a Bowdoin graduate, it would be unusual if she hadn’t gone to a NESCAC school. Of the nine NESCAC teams, five have coaches who went to NESCAC schools, and all nine have at least one member of the coaching staff from a NESCAC school. The head coach of the hockey team at Bowdoin was one of her teammates.

Like Herman, she says that she is happy to see Bowdoin succeed.  She also has gotten to know many of the other coaches from playing with or against them in college, as well as in her years as a coach.

“You spend so much time on the road recruiting that you get to know each other,” she said. “And we’re all of a similar mindset. We think of our players as students before athletes.”

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