Friday, March 23, 2012

RR Friday Interview: U.S. Olympian Kate Maloney of Williams Crew, Part II

As the Williams Ephs gear up for their first test of the season v. St. Joseph's University on March 31st, we bring you the second half of our interview with Williams College women’s rowing head coach, Kate Maloney, covering her thoughts on her development as a coach, how she rose through the ranks, and how the sport has changed at the college level since she began at Northeastern in 2002. (For the first part of this interview, on Maloney's background in the sport and experience as an athlete, click here.)

RR: Did you find that coaching grabbed you immediately? Or did you come to like it over time?

KM: I am still learning how to coach. It’s an ever-evolving process. I am more confident now than I was in 2003 in my abilities to help kids reach their full potential. But the original spark was being back in that environment, as part of a great coaching staff surrounded by highly motivated athletes.

RR: You coached at Yale for quite a while, and found a great deal of success there. During that time, how much do you feel that the level increased in intercollegiate rowing? It seems like the relative speed of crews over the last ten years has increased almost exponentially.

KM: Absolutely. I think that that is a credit to the people involved in coaching, to the high school programs developing athletes for the collegiate level, as well as to the growing number of opportunities that are out there for athletes coming into the sport. Right or wrong, there had been this belief that rowing was the repository for athletes who were generalists, or not good enough at anything else. I don’t necessarily believe that, but certainly since women’s rowing has joined the NCAA, it has attracted athletes–kids that are coming in well-trained, that would be good on the basketball court or volleyball court; kids that would be good swimmers or good runners; kids that would be able to have a career in other sports if they so chose. The idea of what is expected of an NCAA athlete is known all the way down to the high school level now.

It’s still certainly a sport that embraces walk-ons. Looking at the group of women training for the 2012 Olympics, there are certainly a number of walk-ons in that group, but there are also some phenomenal high school athletes in that mix as well. The technology has gotten better, the training has gotten better, and freshmen are arriving with a better understanding of what is needed to push our sport.

RR: You’ve coached the junior national team for a number of years, along with former Williams head coach Justin Moore (now at Syracuse). How was it moving back and forth between a DI NCAA program and the junior national team, and do you feel that your experience working with Moore in the past helped you to make a smooth transition to Williams?

KM: I have enjoyed immensely working with the junior national team. It allows me to get back to my roots in a way. If I had known about rowing at a younger age, I would have wanted to pursue the junior team, so for me it’s something very close to my heart, in terms of wanting to help these kids reach that level. I also very much enjoy working with that age group. I have, as of this summer, retired from coaching the junior team, mostly because I want to focus on my current role as head coach at Williams, but the experience with the junior squad greatly helped me in developing my coaching skills–the more athletes that you engage with on a daily basis, the more you are kept on your toes. You have to keep thinking of new ways to explain the stroke, new ways to challenge them, and new ways find cohesion.

Working with Justin Moore for two years was an amazing experience. He’s a phenomenal coach, a great mentor, and someone whom I consider a good friend. Knowing that he was the Williams coach has allowed me to call him and ask him how he dealt with certain issues at the college–it’s allowed me to have an open communication with him, and it’s certainly been a smooth transition because of the work that he and interim coach Brad Hemmerly did to build this program. It’s very much a self-fulfilling situation. I’d also like to acknowledge Will Porter and Jamie Snider at Yale for all their years of tutelage and helping me to take the next step as a head coach.

The kids work really hard, and find success, and find success because they work really hard. It’s not that I feel like an impostor to the throne, but I have been handed an amazing group of women, who are driven to push themselves to their max, give everything for Williams Crew, and who really believe in the minutia of the day-to-day work. It’s been an amazing year for me, personally, learning to express my head coaching voice, but also to be surrounded by this group of women–they inspire me on a daily basis.

Thanks very much to Kate Maloney for taking the time, and best of luck to the Ephs this season. For more on Williams Crew, please visit the official website of the Ephs.

Coming next week: RR Interviews Nick Trojan, former junior and U23 national team lightweight sculler who took fourth place at the first National Selection Regatta.

-RR

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