Q: What do you think is the biggest contributing factor to your success at UNC?
A: Besides the University of North Carolina itself attracting outstanding student-athletes, I believe the biggest success factor is maximizing use of time. Every coach makes decisions about where you spend the time you have allotted. With only so much time to work with, I choose between fundamental skill development, skill acquisition, press/outlet, tactics, strategy, opposition preparation, film review, game debrief, sports psychology, team building exercises, strength and conditioning, etc. I believe recognizing what is most important at the moment and choosing the appropriate mix is what separates the good from the great.
Q: How would you describe yourself as a coach?
A: I believe I am a players’ coach. I am honest and I call ’em as I see ’em. I believe in everyone playing defense and that defense wins championships. I believe in the power of solid fundamental skills. I believe in passing the ball! I believe in hard work. I love the creativity in the game and empowering our teams to think for themselves. I believe I am a motivator that pushes players to do more than they think they can. I love to train winning habits.
Q: What kind of attributes do you look for in future Tar Heels?
A: I look for students who love the game and exhibit passion and a will to win. If you truly love the game, training is fun and it’s an investment. I look for athleticism and speed. That’s the case for scholarship players, but also what we’re looking for in the “diamonds in the rough” — we have a strong history of developing players who were unsung coming out of high school. We’ve had players like Jesse Gey, Jackie Kintzer Briggs, Caitlin Van Sickle and Lauren Moyer who have come to Chapel Hill as non-scholarship players and gone on to become national team members and Olympians. These women loved the game and were willing to do the work. That’s what we want to see in a future Tar Heel.
Q: What is the biggest difference between college field hockey now and at the beginning of your career — what do you wish hadn’t changed?
A: I have to say the game has changed a lot and as coaches we need to be adaptable. That said, one of the biggest changes is in recruiting and it has not been a positive change. In the 1980s, high school students usually made their decisions and commitments after the National Hockey Festival over Thanksgiving weekend in the fall of their senior year of high school. Since then it’s crept earlier and earlier to the point that I think kids are making an important life decision before they’re truly ready. I am a proponent of tightening the recruiting rules and closing the loopholes so that the recruiting process begins in a student-athlete’s junior year.
What I wish hadn’t changed is the prevalence of multisport student-athletes. Everyone specializes now and I think it’s a shame. I believe cross-training in sports is good for the soul and good for the body!
Thank you, Karen! And thanks to everyone who submitted a question!
Want more answers? Catch some adivce from Trinity College assistant coach, Katie Kloeckener, and Shippensburg University head coach, Tara Zollinger!
Next month we’ll be giving you another opportunity to “Ask a Coach,” so follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for your chance to ask your coaching questions.