Alumni return to their roots as assistant coaches

Pamela London

For a portion of every day, Whitman student-athletes set aside their studies to focus on training for their respective sports. For the teams with Whitman alumni as members of the coaching staff, there may be a little extra motivation seeing someone who worked hard for four years, and is still coming back for more.

This year, both swimming and tennis have coaches who were varsity athletes during their time at Whitman.

“Coaching any sport is extremely time intensive,” said assistant swim coach Jamie Kennedy ’96. “Adding extra coaching resources with assistants at practices and meets provides a greater ability to work one-on-one with more athletes and allows more flexibility for head coaches.”

During his time at Whitman, Kennedy was a member of the varsity swim team and played club water polo. Kennedy has been volunteering as an assistant coach since 2003, when he and his wife moved back to Walla Walla. The swim team’s success has given him many good memories to build on.

“As a coach, my favorite memory was seeing the reaction of the team and the crowd when the men’s team beat UPS for the first time in a dual meet,” said Kennedy.

In addition to being another pair of eyes watching over the athletes as they train and prepare for competition, the alums bring a different level of communication between the coaches and players.

“I think, or at least like to think, that I understand what it takes for my players to be student-athletes at Whitman because I too once had to carefully balance athletic and academic performances at Whitman,” said assistant women’s tennis coach Katie Oost.

Oost, a 2009 graduate and four-year varsity tennis player, was twice the recipient of the ITA Scholar-Athlete Award and was voted to the All-NWC Second Team as a junior. She has been working with the program since graduating in May 2009. Immediately after graduating, Oost volunteered to be an assistant coach while applying to graduate school.

“My favorite coaching memory was watching my team make it to the finals of the NWC tournament [last] spring,” said Oost.

By continuing to work with the athletic programs as assistant coaches, Whitman alumni find themselves able to stay connected with their teams and to build on their own collegiate success to foster success for the next generation of Whitties.

The alums are thus able to set an example for the current student-athletes about how to conduct themselves and be a positive contribution to the Whitman athletic programs by representing Whitman on and off the field.

“I think [having alums as assistants] ultimately leads to better practices and better training,” said Kennedy, “which leads to better performance and competition.”

This echoes Athletic Director Dean Snider’s goal of fostering excellence throughout the athletic department for all its student-athletes in all areas of life at Whitman.

The men’s and women’s swim teams have already competed at the Northwest Conference Sprint Pentathlon and Relay Invitational, and next travel to Lewis and Clark College for a NWC dual meet on Friday, Nov. 12.

The men’s and women’s tennis teams begin NWC team season in early February 2011 following the successful fall competition for both teams at the ITA Pacific Northwest Tournaments and USTA/ITA National Small College Championships.