Connecting for the Win

by Paige Cooke

The Hobart and William Smith spring sports season was an unqualified success. Herons and Statesmen earned 66 conference all-academic awards, 31 all-conference honors, and four conference titles, and competed in six national championship events. Behind the numbers, awards and titles, there were key conversations that spurred on a successful spring at the Colleges.

Hobart Lacrosse
It was a players-only meeting in the Hobart lacrosse locker room on the Monday after a regular season loss to Bryant that changed the tone of the Statesmen’s season. “The seniors called a meeting after the Bryant loss and we all spoke about what this means to us. We decided we were going to do it all, or not do anything at all,” Captain Cooper Stefaniak ’16 told Inside Lacrosse after winning the NEC Championship. The Statesmen went on to win their next game 15-10 over Sacred Heart. After regular season league losses to Saint Joseph’s and Bryant by a combined score of 28-7, Hobart rebounded to knock off both teams in the NEC Tournament. The Statesmen captured their first league title with a 7-6 win over the then No. 20 Bulldogs in the semifinals and an 11-7 victory over the host Hawks in the championship game. Hobart earned the program’s 26th NCAA tournament appearance and finished the year as an NCAA statistical champion, leading the nation in man-down defense (.776).

William Smith Lacrosse
A “Heron Communication” plan laid the foundation for the William Smith lacrosse team’s success in 2016. First-year Head Coach Anne Phillips quickly realized the Herons were not all using the same language when they talked in practices, and that was when “Heron Communication” began. It allowed the team to have a unified communication system, from letting teammates know the direction of the draw to talking through each of their roles in the new defense. “One of the greatest pieces of success was seeing them understand each other and everyone having the ability to communicate with consistent language,” says Phillips. The Herons captured their first Liberty League title since 2004 and earned the program’s 18th appearance in the NCAA tournament. William Smith topped Roger Williams 13-7 in its first round game and was edged 4-2 by then No. 4 Gettysburg in the second round. The Herons held the Bullets to their lowest single game goal total since 2007.

Hobart Rowing
Hobart rowing has used continued conversations to build a system of mentoring in their program, helping student-athletes achieve success both as a team and as individuals. The Statesmen have captured the Liberty League title for 11 years in a row and recently made their 12th appearance at the IRA national championship regatta. Hobart’s varsity eight was named the Liberty League Crew of the Year for the 13th straight year. Achieving this sustained success starts when a student-athlete is first interested in Hobart. With the guidance of Head Coach Paul Bugenhagen and Assistant Coach Skip Kielt and their experience with national teams as a coach and an athlete, respectively, student-athletes see it as a goal to compete on the international stage. This year, August Wherry ’16 and Austin Letorney ’17 are vying to do just that. Letorney is one of 36 rowers accepted to the U.S. Men’s Under 23 National Team Selection Camp, while Wherry is one of 12 athletes invited to the Lightweight Men’s Under 23 National Team Selection Camp. Wherry represented the United States with teammate Rob McNamara ’15 in 2014, winning the petite final and finishing seventh at the U23 Rowing World Championships. “That is something we have conversations about, the rare privilege it is to represent your country as the best in your sport. It is something that very few people have the opportunity to do. It is very humbling and also something to take great pride in,” says Bugenhagen.

William Smith Rowing
A coxswain is the lone voice for a rowing team on the water. Susan Tuvell ’16, a coxswain for William Smith, garnered CRCA All-American first team honors this spring. She had the job of being the Herons’ communicator. The oarswomen all rely on the coxswain to yell out commands during the race, to tell them where they are in relation to their competitors and what they need to improve on during a race. As a team, the Herons realized in order for the eight rowers to participate in conversation with the coxswain they needed to “speak with their oars.” William Smith worked hard to keep up this conversation throughout the season, clinching the program’s sixth consecutive Liberty League championship and securing the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, where they finished in sixth place. It was the Herons’ 13th NCAA Championships appearance.

HWS Sailing
Hobart and William Smith sailors took a different tack, minimizing unnecessary communication to focus on achieving success. The sailing program has been working over the past few years to get studentathletes to realize the importance of face-to-face communication as well as being present in the moment. The team, therefore, instituted a rule to eliminate cell phone distractions. Sailing regattas are a tournament-style all day event and when student-athletes arrive at a regatta site, cell phones are put away until the conclusion of the day’s competition. Doing so allows students to focus and proves to their teammates their investment in the competition and the success of the team. Today’s scoring systems are now online, so with HWS athletes off their phones, they must rely on the coaching staff to relay the team’s progress and goals. The sailing program has also set priorities for methods of communication. Athletes should try to communicate first face-to-face, second through a phone call, third through email and use a text as a last resort. “Everyone involved in the HWS sailing program invests so much time and energy into it. We believe it is important to give that time and respect in terms of communication, making every effort to communicate in person first,” says Head Coach Scott Iklé ’84. The increased focus, minimized distractions and value placed on communication, helped HWS earn a spot in two national championship events in San Diego this spring, finishing 12th in both the ICSA Women’s National Championship and the ICSA Dinghy National Championship. It was the Colleges’ 16th appearance in both national championship regattas.


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