One might presume a sports team without a coach would be like a chicken without a head. But the players on the recently orphaned GW men’s golf team don’t think that’s the case at all.
After the popular and respected longtime head coach Scott Allen left GW to take a higher-paying job at the University of Pennsylvania, administrators were left scrambling to find a new coach, a process Director of Sports Information Brad Bower said is ongoing.
Though Conor McMahon, a member of last year’s team who graduated, has agreed to come on as an assistant coach, it is unlikely the team will have a head coach before Sept. 12 when it begins the fall season at the Navy Fall Invitational. This season is not as important as its spring counterpart, but a poor performance can eliminate a team from NCAA tournament contention.
As an assistant, McMahon will not be a full replacement for Allen, whose 1270 wins during his 14-year tenure are more than quadruple any other coach in the program’s 80-year history. But the current Colonials are not overly concerned about being on their own much of the time, due in part to the addition of three highly sought-after freshmen Allen recruited before leaving. That trio includes Javier Ballesteros, son of former Masters and U.S. Open champion Seve Ballesteros.
“I think we’ll be just fine,” senior Eddie Newland said about his team, which finished ninth out of 12 teams in last year’s Atlantic 10 championships. “I don’t think anybody’s really scared about the prospect of not having a coach – some people even think we might be better off.”
Operating without a coach would be next to impossible in a team sport like football or basketball, but golf is, at its core, an individual game. Team chemistry and communication play a minimal role, as long as each competitor plays well on his own.
Last year, players faced daily practices and weightlifting three times a week. Now they are discussing making some practices optional, saying that a more relaxed practice schedule will allow students to balance schoolwork and golf better and improve concentration. They don’t plan to meet as a team until Sept. 1.
“We all want to practice. It’s not like anyone has to force us to practice,” Newland said. “Now it’s a matter of getting ourselves there and organizing when we should all go as a group, and being able to make that decision ourselves as opposed to being told a certain time.”
The players frequently compare the team to a fraternity, a mentality they hope will get them through a potentially chaotic year. If it doesn’t all go as they planned, the team members said they will still enjoy the ride.
“I loved my four years,” Newland said. “And if this year goes to hell in a handbag I’m still going to have good memories of it.”