Athletes need more than a part-time leader

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • September 10, 2015

Emerson’s athletic department recently hired part-time head coaches for both the women’s tennis team and the baseball team, two programs which struggled mightily last year. Though new leadership can help usher in a winning era, these two coaches are automatically at a disadvantage purely because of their job’s limitation. 

In Sept. 2013, Stanford Nance, the then-interim athletic director, said the department wanted all 14 varsity sports to have full-time coaches by fall 2015. It made sense, as the school had just transitioned to the more competitive New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, which includes universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Babson College. After the men’s soccer coach left when the position was elevated to full-time last spring, Erin Brennen, a senior associate director of athletics, said though there are long-term plans to have every position be full-time, there are no immediate deadlines.

Currently, there are five sports which lack full-time coaches: baseball, and both the men’s and women’s cross country and tennis teams. The past two seasons, the baseball team has won two of its 34 NEWMAC games. The cross country teams both placed last at the championship meet in 2014, and the tennis programs went winless in conference matches last year.

It’s not a secret that sports aren’t the most popular part of Emerson College, but recent efforts by the athletic department—including a new logo, hiring Patricia Nicol as the athletic director, giveaways at games—demonstrate they’re trying to change public opinion. A new shiny gym floor and free swag may entice new fans, but a culture of winning is what’s going to get them to stay. 

The only programs that have qualified for postseason play in the NEWMAC are the basketball teams, both of which have had full-time coaches for several years. Upgrading coaching positions to full-time is an expensive process, and Brennen acknowledged last year that the department doesn’t currently have the funding to expand the five remaining coaching positions. But part-time coaches don’t enjoy the same benefits as their full-time counterparts: They’re not as accessible to their players, and they also have to balance games and practices with another job. If Emerson wants to commit to its athletes, the college needs to show these students that they care. 

By moving into a more competitive conference, Emerson made the statement that it was ready for a higher level of play. Now, with some teams entering their third season of NEWMAC play still seeking their first conference win, the school needs to invest more in its department if it expects to compete.