After nine years of coaching Bates Women’s Soccer, eight as the head coach, Kelsy Ross has left Bates athletics. This decision comes after rising tensions and declining team performance over the past few years, culminating in a disappointing 2018 season record.
In recent years, some athletes have grown unhappy with Coach Ross’ coaching decisions.
“I think that maybe this year was so frustrating because everyone can generally agree that we had a really good group of players this year, and we feel like things could have gone so much better if we used a different formation or [players] were put in different positions which better suited them,” first-year senior Anastasia Leff ’19 said.
This discontent eventually erupted as one athlete accused Coach Ross of a conduct violation, an allegation which the Bates athletic department takes extremely seriously. A third-party employment lawyer interviewed members of the team and eventually concluded that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the claim.
“Students need to feel free to raise concerns in good faith and to have the college look into them,” Director of Athletics Jason Fein said. “At the same time, an investigation does not signify wrongdoing, and none was found with regard to Coach Ross.”
In the end, by mutual agreement, Coach Ross stepped down as the head Women’s Soccer coach.
Her departure brought mixed feelings to the women’s soccer team. Team Captain Sarah Gutch ’19 explained how this investigation has been difficult for her and the team.
“It was a very weird experience for me, especially because [I’ve known her] since my junior year in high school…As the investigation [went] on, she [couldn’t] talk to us and we [couldn’t] talk to her…it wasn’t enjoyable, it was very weird. We didn’t really know what was going on, and there were just all these ‘what if’s.’”
“I didn’t really know how to feel,” she continued. “Everyone has their own opinions on if she should have left, if she shouldn’t have left…I think a lot of people were confused because we weren’t told the outcome of the investigation, we were told that the investigation didn’t have any bearing on her decision to leave.”
While some did not agree with her coaching style, many athletes talk of the passion and dedication she had for the success of the team and the women on it.
“She cares a lot about the program, she cares a lot about the girls and she truly did want the best for the program,” Gutch said. “The hours she spent recruiting, or thinking of ways to make things better I think sometimes went unnoticed, but I do think she had the best interest of the team in mind…There were just moments when you feel like you need to talk to someone and [I knew] that my coach was always an option, she was always there.”
Similarly, Leff spoke of Coach Ross’ support when she chose to try out for the soccer team as a senior.
“[Kelsy] was really welcoming to me when I joined the team. She never once [told me] ‘You shouldn’t join because you’re a senior,’ she really was open to me trying out and seeing how I could play and how I could contribute to the team and I’m really, really thankful for that…I think depending on who it is, it’s easy for people to not separate soccer and [her as an] individual, and Kelsy as an individual is wonderful and cares so much about the entire team.”
Despite how her time at Bates may have ended, the Women’s Soccer team has seen success in the past under Coach Ross.
In 2010, Coach Ross assisted Head Soccer Coach Jim Murphy who lead the Women’s Soccer team to the NESCAC semifinals. Since then, the women’s soccer team has competed in the NESCAC Championship, playing in the quarterfinals in 2015 where the Bobcats fell 2-1 to Trinity, finishing fifth and boasting an overall record of 7-6-3 (4-3-3 NESCAC).
At the end of the 2015 season, Ross was named NESCAC Coach of the Year and two athletes, Olivia Amdur ’19 and Allison Hill ’17, received second-team All-NESCAC Honors.
The athletic department is currently searching for a replacement head soccer coach who will begin leading the Women’s Soccer team in the 2019 fall season.