Ohio State coaches new and old navigate unchartered territory – OSU – The Lantern

Posted: September 3, 2020 at 3:53 pm


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Ohio State womens soccer head coach Lori Walker-Hock paces the sidelines in the second half of the game against Florida Gulf Coast University on Sept. 7, 2018. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Former Photo Editor

No amount of wins accumulated, players coached or practices held could prepare a coach to guide a team through a pandemic and postponed season.

Between adapting to a life of social distancing to shifting gears following the Big Tens postponement of fall sports, 2020 has brought a new set of challenges to coaching. From womens soccer coach Lori Walker-Hock, who is entering her 24th year as Ohio States head coach, to Jen Flynn Oldenburg, who was hired to be the womens volleyball coach in January, Ohio State coaches have been forced to adapt and lead their teams into the unknown.

Having to adjust to coaching at the university made Oldenburg feel like she was drinking through a firehose, but she said the pandemic shifted her mentality.

You kinda feel behind because youre trying to figure this all out, and then the pandemic hits and I feel like Im on the same page as everybody else. Were all dealing with the unknown and dealing with whats next, Oldenburg said Aug. 20.

In 1997, Oldenburg was entering the second year of her playing career at Ohio State while Walker-Hock was beginning her first year as head coach of the womens soccer program.

Walker-Hock has accumulated 254 wins in her time at Ohio State, but getting to 255 will require a slightly longer wait.

Describing going through the offseason process almost like a rookie coach, Walker-Hock said her lack of familiarity with the situation has not impacted her core leadership skills.

Im as solid as Ive ever been as far as what I believe in and what it takes to be a championship team and how do we get there, Walker-Hock said Aug. 19.

The leadership aspect was also echoed by Ohio State football head coach Ryan Day, who noted that it is the job of a coach to lead in times of uncertainty.

Being the head coach at Ohio State, theres a lot of things you have to work through, but the No. 1 thing is to be a leader and to take care of your players, show them some direction and how much you care for them, and be real, solve their problems, and advocate for them, Day said in an Aug. 12 Zoom conference with media members.

With Ohio State football coming off a 13-1 season and returning several key contributors for 2020, the postponement pushed back an opportunity for the team to fulfill its potential.

Ohio State mens soccer coach Brian Maisonneuve, who had improved on the teams 2018 record by winning six additional games in 2019, also said the postponement decision along with the lost spring training impacted the momentum built up by the previous years team.

We did have a lot of good momentum going. I thought the guys turned some corners and we were really coming together, Maisonneuve said Aug. 20. I thought last spring was going to be an important spring, and it was unfortunate that it got canceled and now the fall got canceled.

Maisonneuve said that they will fill the void left by postponed games with training.

The pandemic has not only impacted the coaches ability to interact with their current players, but it also has put a strain on the recruitment of future players.

Day and Oldenburg stressed the importance of building relationships with the recruits, an element which has remained unchanged.

Oldenburg said the use of virtual spaces, such as Zoom, has allowed the interaction to continue without the ability to host recruits at Ohio States campus. The available technology mixed with her staffs ability to identify talent has left the new coach with a sense of confidence when approaching recruiting.

We can evaluate talent and I feel pretty good about our ability to do that, Oldenburg said. Now its just about getting the right people that fit where we want to go.

The loss of spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Maisonneuves ability to see some 2021 recruits play soccer. Despite the added difficulty, the third-year head coach noted that everyone is in the same boat.

Its hard because youve got to see some of these kids live and see them compete with their club teams and high school teams, and we just havent had that ability, Maisonneuve said. Weve watched a lot of video, but its different when you see them live.

Although the situation is unprecedented, the common response from Ohio States coaches is to move on from the decision and focus on player and team development.

The games may not be in sight, but the preparation continues for Ohio State fall athletics.

The mentality is when we get a chance to play, we are going to be ready, Oldenburg said.

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Ohio State coaches new and old navigate unchartered territory - OSU - The Lantern

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September 3rd, 2020 at 3:53 pm

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