There is not a single woman on the Varsity Volleyball team who felt betrayed, disappointed, or at a loss when our coach announced her resignation.
It was a change that needed to be made if we are truly going to change the culture of the volleyball program and the athletic department as a whole. There are many flaws in the way athletics are portrayed at Bates, and many changes that needed to be made to support our desire for success.
Throughout this semester, a lot of issues have been addressed that were previously tucked under the rug, such as drinking policies, public protest, and the unjust removal of public art. But it is time that some attention is brought to the athletics department.
A large injustice that comes to mind when reflecting on my experience with Bates Volleyball is the training and injury support system. This was exemplified when sophomore Maggie Paulich had a season ending injury last year.
She said, “I tore my right ACL during my junior year in high school, so when I tore my left ACL in our first home game last year, I was very familiar with the recovery process. One person at Bates College who really helped me through my recovery process was our Athletic Trainer, Ben Walker. Although he is incredibly knowledgeable and was very supportive whenever he worked with me, it was frustrating because he was very busy and frankly overworked.”
“Bates has only four athletic trainers for all of the sports each season,” Paulich continues. “Football gets their own trainer, for obvious reasons, while all other teams share a trainer with at least one other team. When I tore my ACL in our home game it was awful because we had a guest trainer that I didn’t know, and she did not know anything about me or my previous injuries. Although employing more trainers would obviously cost more, I think that it is necessary to ensure the safety and success of athletes.”
A second way in which our team felt ignored last season was in the relationship we had with our athletic director.
Every year, the athletic department tells us we are going to win more and improve, but that has to be more than athletes working harder and setting goals. It is also the responsibility of the athletic department to respond to athletes by making changes and improving the weaknesses unique to each sport’s program.
If a team is unsuccessful for one season, it is necessary to have a conversation between the athletic director, the coach, and the team to try and figure out why the team was unsuccessful. At the end of our season last year, we brought up many concerns about the volleyball program in our evaluations.
We were optimistic that these evaluations would augment the success of the program. We were coming from our first NESCAC tournament appearance in five years, and we saw a lot of potential for our team to be a true competitor in the NESCAC.
After the evaluations, in which many players raised many valid concerns about the way our program is run, the athletic director made no attempt to address this with our team. We felt as though our concerns were not taken seriously. After not winning a single match in the NESCAC this season, we were valid in our concern for change after last year.
Lastly, there is a lack of a standard for success in the program. This season, the athletic director sat down and watched one hour of our practice but had no conversation with the team afterwards about our feelings regarding the practice culture of our team. This lack of communication fueled a negative and even hopeless attitude regarding the culture of our team at this point in time.
As a team with no graduating seniors last year, and a very strong freshman class this year, our talent level was only enhanced from last season to this season. Yet we did not win a single NESCAC match. This season, then, is clearly not reflective of the talent level of the players on the team; it is instead reflective of the athletic culture of this school.
Looking beyond these grievances, we are hopeful as a team that this culture is a malleable one. We are excited to start that change with a new coach, although that is not the only solution.
Chandler McGrath, a sophomore and starting outside hitter, expresses her hopes for our new coach. “We hope to find a coach who is passionate and dedicated toward our team’s success, someone who will push beyond the limits, and lead us to victories. As a program, I believe that this transition marks a new beginning for our team. It will allow us to redefine our team expectations and goals and create new standards for success. Off-season, we will work hard to prepare ourselves for the upcoming season, and use a refined mindset to push past our competitors and become a threat in the NESCACS.”
Graduating captain Miranda Shapiro shares the same sentiments as McGrath.
“We are looking for a new coach that can continue growing the program and push us to a greater success in the future,” Shapiro said.
I hold much hope for this program’s upcoming season. I think that with participation and communication between the athletic director and the team in the process of finding a new coach, along with more investment from the athletic department as a whole, Bates Volleyball will finally have a program of which we can all be proud.