Many hands contribute to the success of our Ursinus students. While our faculty are the backbone of the educational experience we offer, with nearly 35 percent of our students engaged in intercollegiate sports, coaches working in tandem with the academic program is key to ensuring that the College produces true scholar-athletes.
With regard to coaches, Athletic Director Laura Moliken eloquently proclaims, “All of us here at Ursinus educate our students. The pool is our classroom; the field is our classroom; the gym is our classroom. We teach skills and sport concepts, but we also teach about many other things related to life: character development, leadership, commitment, and work ethic, to name a few. All of these teachings complement what is learned in the classroom. We ask our coaches to be educators first and foremost.”
The growth of our full-time coaching staff over the last 15 years, from five full-time coaches to 12 full-time head coaches and four full-time assistants, has been accompanied by the expectation that coaches be part of the residential campus culture. AD Moliken attests that there is now better mentoring, better guidance, and more emphasis on academics because of our coaches’ integration into the educational mission of the College.
Some of our coaches recently were recognized for their good work. Bill Racich, our longtime wrestling coach, was inducted into the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame, joining many of our other alumni and coaches. In honor of her career and Ursinus national champion field hockey team, Laura Moliken was inducted into the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Men’s Soccer Coach Kyle Rush was named 2013 Centennial Conference Coach of the Year.
The lifelong impact of coaches on students is a continuing refrain at Ursinus, and it was heard again at this year’s Hall of Fame for Athletes induction ceremony. The inductees consistently attributed their life paths and personal success to their Ursinus coaches.
Jennifer Stone Mandato 1996, inducted for her achievements in women’s lacrosse, spoke about coach Vonnie Gros 1957: “She truly cares for her teams. She really knows how to utilize her players to their fullest potential. She knows when to push and when to praise. She knows the game inside and out. She made me the best and she made me want to be the best.”
Traci Davis 1982, who is now herself an athletic director and coach, played for Marge Watson 1952, whom she had met at a summer field hockey camp. Traci was inducted for achievements in field hockey, track and field and women’s lacrosse. She said of her coaches, “We were kept grounded. Our coaches were able to instill a sense of balance in our lives … . It’s the people, the relationships, the stories and the pride in competing for Ursinus that I will forever cherish.”
Those thoughts were echoed by educator Frank Vecchio 2001, who played football and spoke of his coach, Paul Guenther 1995 (currently linebacker coach of the Cincinnati Bengals). “The impact he had on me and my teammates will last my lifetime,” said Frank. “I have tried to emulate three qualities he exemplified in my daily life and my teaching career: passion, relationship development, and confidence.” Guenther, Frank continued, “provided me and his teams with confidence in ourselves and in one another.”
Laura Moliken has some memorable last words: “The goal is to provide our students with an outstanding education. But it is the combination of faculty and the athletics staff working together toward the same goal that shows a true team mentality at Ursinus College.”
May I wish you all a joyous season into the New Year.
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