All posts by Sophie McKnight

Handling Mayhem

            I’ve had a lot of coaches throughout the years I’ve played soccer. Some I liked, and many who I most definitely did not like. But I can’t say that I did not learn anything from all of them. They all had their unique ways of coaching that allowed me to take away something more than just a soccer skill in the end that was more than just a soccer skill.

            Going into my first time coaching two years ago, I was terrified. First off because I am not a fan of kids and I was about to have 14 of them swarming around me. But mostly because I had never run a practice on my own before, and my old club coach was going to be there evaluating me to see if I was ready to become a head coach for him at the club.

            The beginning of practice was easy. I had the little eight-year old monsters dribble around a box playing red light, green light, and during every “red light” two kids would introduce themselves to the team. It was easy, the parents loved it, and most importantly it took up minutes of the hour practice. Now came the hard part, the actual coaching.

            The main focus of this practice was dribbling and teaching the kids how to use the different surfaces of their feet to dribble a soccer ball, a.k.a. the kids were about to be running wild through sets of cones complaining that this is the boring part of soccer. So I set up a line of four cones, split the kids into groups, and told them we were going to be doing relay races through the cones. I told them the rules and emphasized certain point about how to properly dribble through the cones and told them that even if one of the teams won a round, another team can still get a point if they had the best dribbling. So naturally the kids got all excited about the points that wouldn’t mean anything by the time practice was over.

            I blew the whistle and all hell broke loose. Balls were being kicked all over the kiddie field, the cones were now zigzagged because of kids running into them, and my mind was about to explode thanks to the limited amount of patience I was blessed with. It took every bit of me not to raise my voice and end the fun. Their young kids and they’re competing to win, so obviously they’re going to be incredibly excited about something like this.

            I remembered how many of the awful coaches I had in the past would act out in times like this. The drill would stop, our entire team would get yelled at for not taking this seriously and being a waste of our coaches time, and on the end line we went to start running as a punishment. That is the type of coach I never want to be. I don’t want to suck the love and the fun out of soccer for these kids before they actually get the chance to play it when they grow up.

            So I blew the whistle again, freezing the drill. There was only about 15-20 minutes left off practice, and the last 10 were going to be spent scrimmaging, so I had to think of a way to actually get them to work on soccer without being boring. I gathered the kids together and had them individually go dribble through the cones. When I first said that, I got groans from every player. Until I put a fun twist on it that while they were dribbling, the rest of the team would come up with a cheer for that person during the time they were dribbling, and the kids loved it. It gave them a chance to get to know each other better, plus what child doesn’t love yelling?

            I was surprised that I made it out of the practice alive, and so was my coach. But in the end, he was very impressed with the way I handled myself. Even the parents came up to thank me and tell me how professional they thought I acted.

            So obviously I got the job and ever since then, I always try to be the coach that many of my previous coaches hadn’t been. Fun.

The Changing World of News

            Podcasts, online videos and social media are the new, and quickly become the only way that people receive their news. Whether that news is fashion, politics, world news, or sports, the printed newspaper is vastly disappearing from the way people choose to read news. Chris Otto, Sports editor of LNP and LancasterOnline, stopped by to give his expert opinion of the impact that technology has on news and what upcoming hires can do to make themselves stand out from the crowd.

            LancasterOnline has a well-known reputation for being one of the best in the area when it comes to covering high school sports, and even sports in general. LancasterOnline takes full advantage of the technology available to them along with the amount of viewers and subscribers to their sports section that it has created a podcast called “Inspirational Athlete” featuring current and past athletes and coaches talking about their journey and their current status. Along with a weekly high school football podcast hosted by Jeff Reinhart keeping people updated on the Lancaster area high school football teams.

            Personally, I feel that I am very awkward when I have to speak while being recorded and that any future podcasts I create will sound that way.

            “Repetition is the only way to get better at an interview,” Otto said. “After the preparation, it’s an art form.”

            Hearing Otto say this made it clear as to why I sound so uncomfortable. But what interested me even more was the simple advice he had for graduating college students and new hires going into his field of work and even into professional communications in general. He stressed the idea of knowing your deadlines especially in the sports world, and how a reporter can be at a high school football game at night and have to turn a story around by 11 pm that same night to get an article out by 11:30.

            Another aspect I found interesting was Otto’s responses to the best way to give the LancasterOnline audience their news.

            “Give the readers the news they want, where they want to read it,” Otto said. “We’re not in control of how people get the news anymore.”

            I found this very interesting because Otto is an editor at a newspaper. He, along with the rest of the staff at the LNP are in complete control of getting stories out on time and to the different news outlets that they have, however they still are in no control as to how the public is going to read it. It’s not like everyone receives a newspaper on their front porch every morning any more, or even once a week. And to Otto, no one will be getting their news from the newspapers within the next 10 years or more.

            In the end, newspapers and news outlets need to continue to use the technology provided to give people the news they want in order to keep their business successful.

Coaching at the Highest Level

Coaching a team to an NCAA Division I championship is no easy task. Erica Dambach, head coach of Penn State University’s women’s soccer team, did just that in 2015.

I originally interviewed coach Dambach for the midterm project, but decided to go another way with it. However, interviewing her and learning what it is like coaching at the highest level possible could not go unnoticed.

Coach Dambach has obviously been doing something right if she has managed to coach multiple Division I soccer programs, along with even coaching for the U.S. Women’s National Team and being part of an Olympic Gold and a World Cup.

“It’s humbling, exciting, and eye opening,” Coach said. “It’s gratifying, you feel like you can really impact players that you never thought you could really impact.”

Being a soccer coach myself, I would like to learn as much as I can so I can better myself as a coach and the players I work with, even though six year olds could care less about how much I actually know. So I was interested to see what some of coach Dambach’s coaching philosophies were and how they have helped her in her career so far.

“Character is our biggest thing,” Coach said. “We bring them (recruits) in with the assumption that they can play, but sometimes athleticisms just isn’t enough… A player can wind up sitting on the bench with a bad attitude and end up leaving, or they can buy into the program and end up raising a national championship… It’s their choice.”

This surprised me. Penn State has one of the most historic sports programs in the country. So I figured that all they looked for were the best players in the country, ignored the personal aspect of the game, and focused solely on winning the game. It is humbling to know that coaches all the up to the Division I and national team level value attitude as much as some of my coaches in the past have.

After winning the national championship in 2015, the PSU women’s team was knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the early stages in 2016. But coach Dambach did not see that as something the team was going to let bring down their spirits for the 2017 season.

“Beyond winning it, we created a culture I always dreamed of creating,” Coach said. “You learn from all mistakes and through years of experience, you can’t get too high and too low with it.”

Currently, the team is 7-3-1 going into the second half of their season and coach Dambach is ready to take on anything their upcoming schedule has to offer them.

“This group has all the potential in the world,” Coach said. “There’s not a team that we play or going to play that scares me.”



Blue Jays Sweep Dickinson

ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa – Elizabethtown College swept Dickinson College in three sets Monday night in Thompson Gymnasium. Junior setter Gabby Anders finished the game with 33 assists, making her career total now 1,108. Anders is the only member of the Etown women’s volleyball team to surpass 1,000 career assists in just two years of playing on the team.

The Blue Jays dominated the first two sets of the match, winning both 25-14, and came from behind in the third set to win it 25-23. Junior Mackenzie Garner led the team with 21 kills followed by Elle Shatto with eight and Sarah Schneider with six.

            Head coach Alex Hinsey is currently in his first season with the Blue Jays and so far, the 2017 season has started better than the entire 2016 season the Blue Jays played. In 2016 the team only managed to win seven total games. This season, the Blue Jays are already 10-3

            “All three of our losses, we were able to take one set from our opponent,” coach Hinsey said, “We were right there with them, and they were teams that we were losing to very easily last year.”

Hinsey has high hopes for the rest of the season and is excited to see how far the team is able to go in the conference.

“The one big goal is to make the Landmark Conference playoffs, we’ve never made it in program history. We think that we could potentially finish third or fourth and really sneak in there and surprise a lot of teams. The other big goal is to have a winning record this year.”

            Not only is this Coach Hinsey’s first season at Etown, this is his first coaching job at any collegiate level. Prior to coming to Etown, coach Hinsey was the head coach of Upper Saint Clair High School’s girls’ team from 2014-2016. In those three seasons, he led the team to a record of 46-12 and qualified for the state tournament for the first time since 2007.

“I always knew I wanted to transition to coaching at the collegiate level and I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity” Hinsey said.

            Hinsey is now the third head coach of the volleyball team in three years, and is also going to be standing in as the men’s volleyball coach for its first season coming in the spring of 2019.

            “I’m very excited about that. I think it’s such a great opportunity to say that you’re starting a program,” Coach said, “It’s an awesome opportunity to see the sport grow, because I know it’s an opportunity I didn’t have when I graduated high school.”

            Hinsey and the rest of the women’s volleyball team are excited to see what the second half of their season bring them, and hope that they will have the best year Elizabethtown Women’s Volleyball has had in a while.  


A Little Help From Grandpa

            Going into my junior year of high school, I had a lot of expectations. I was excited for the upcoming soccer season and colleges were starting to seriously recruit me. It was an exciting yet stressful time in my life that I had been looking forward to the entire summer of 2013.

            As preseason came to an end that august, our first game of the regular season was approaching and I had never felt more confident in myself. I was kicking ass and I was ready for anything; except for the voicemail my dad played for me when I was eating breakfast during the morning before our game.

            My uncle had called our house late in the night to tell us that my grandfather had passed away in his sleep. My world was shattered. My grandfather had played a major role in my soccer career growing up. He taught me how to defend, inspired me with his stories of when he played back in Scotland, and always told me to never be average.

 Hearing that he was gone felt like someone had just taken a soccer ball away from me forever; all I wanted to do was stay home and keep my cleats out of sight so I wouldn’t have to look at them. After the voicemail had finished my dad sad to me, “You’re going out there and playing for him today, ok?”

Fast forward through tearing up in the hallways at school and unsuccessfully keeping it together during the warmups before the game, my coach told me that I was going to be starting. When the referee blew the whistle for kick off, I was in another world. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. Needless to say, it was the worst half of soccer I had ever played.

When I came off the field at halftime I was hoping that my coach wouldn’t put me in for the rest of the game. He came up to me and said, “Something’s up, I can see it. You don’t have to tell me, but I need you to use it as motivation to be the best you can be.”

As I walked out onto the field for the beginning of the second half, I looked around to see my family standing alone. My dad had just lost his father, yet he still made the 45 minute drive to our game. That was all I needed to get my head right; and after an uneventful and uninspired first half, my grandpa helped our team out a little bit. Our striker took and shot and hit the hand of one of the defenders inside the 18 yard box, the ref blew his whistle signaling a penalty kick, and my entire team looked at me to take it.

I have a usual routine when I take PK’s. I place the ball on the PK spot, take seven steps back and one step to the right, and I look in the opposite corner of where I want to shoot in order to trick the goalie. This time was different. I put the ball down, turned completely around to look at my dad, took one step, and placed the ball perfectly in the back of the net, and we walked away victorious.

Now not every game that I’ve played since that day has turned out like that. But now, I write my grandpa’s name on my wrist before I step onto the field on game day, because I know that if it weren’t for him and my dad, I wouldn’t be where I am today as a player, and as a person.