Reaching the finish line: Coaches say goodbye to student athletes
By Ben Markley
As the semester comes to a close, many student athletes are taking the next step in their sports careers at four-year universities or professional leagues, and coaches are trying to fill the gaps left behind.
With a two-year system, coaches have a short time to shape their players. According to the NJCAA, approximately 85 high school seniors have currently signed letters of intent to participate in athletics at the college. By 2014, those students will be moving on to another school.
Kent Shelley, head baseball coach, has watched many players come and go in his 25 years of coaching, and he said junior college coaches have two ways of approaching incoming freshmen athletes.
“Do you tear down the mechanics of an individual that you know will have to be changed in order for that player to be successful at the four-year level and run the risk of not benefiting immediately success in your program,” he said, “or do you bring a kid out of high school who’s had great success, leave him alone in order for your program to have immediate success, but know in the long run that that individual will have to make changes in order to play at the next level?”
For Glen Moser, head tennis coach, the two-year system requires his players to develop more quickly.
“By the end of their sophomore year, they need to be seniors for me,” Moser said. “We’re one of the teams, and we’re about the only team out here that does it, that actually plays four-year colleges. We’re playing juniors and seniors.”
However, he said he enjoys working exclusively with athletes in their first two years of college.
“I think athletes’ freshman and sophomore years are almost the most enthusiastic in terms of energy and their excitement to play,” Moser said. “Some seniors are more interested in their girlfriend, their marriage or getting a job after graduation. Sometimes that senior year isn’t as productive as you think it should be. I like the enthusiasm of the age of the kids that we have.”
Shelley said students who leave after one year aren’t always getting the best deal.
“Those players that have been recruited out of our program early by four-year institutions are normally going to those programs who are basically trying to save their program,” he said. “They’re coming off of a bad season or several bad seasons, and they’re doing whatever they can to save the program.”
On the contrary, Shelley said a full junior college experience helps his players make better transfers, both as students and athletes.
“From an academic standpoint, they’re able to complete all their core electives that place them in a position to transfer on as a full-fledged junior and begin work in their undergraduate degree,” he said. “From the baseball side, it gives them another year of playing experience and another year of enhancing their skill set and just becoming better all-around players.”
Player transfer can have a major impact on a team’s roster and overall success, but Shelley said the main downside to losing players after one or two years is not getting to watch them continue their development.
“We get them to a point after two years of them really being in a position to take their game to the next level, and we don’t get the opportunity to enjoy watching our players experience that great success,” he said.
For Moser, the hardest part of losing players is replacing them.
“It’s never-ending recruiting,” he said. “There are probably years that a four-year college coach in a tennis program is maybe looking for one person, and I’m always looking for three or four.”
However, the coaches aren’t the only ones saddened by the departure.
“We have a lot of kids that hate leaving after two years,” Moser said. “The academic environment and the physical setting of the school is just superior to most schools if you look around. They love this place.”
Contact Ben Markley, sports editor, at email@example.com.