SOMETHING UNUSUAL HAPPENED THIS YEAR when, for various reasons, a third of the head varsity coaches in Pitt-Bradford athletics turned over.
“This is a unique situation, where we have four brand new head coaches coming on board at the same time,” said relatively new athletic director Bret Butler, who was formerly the head baseball coach. “It's an exciting time for our department.”
Doug Alban, Men's and women's swimming
Most recent coaching position: Assistant swimming and diving coach at University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn.
His coaching goals: “To prepare these young adults for success after graduation. All the school
records and personal bests are great, but knowing these athletes will have the confidence to go out and make their mark on society and be genuinely good human beings is the true goal.”
Favorite memory of competing: “When I was 12 years old, I was on a swim team that competed in a small, local league. I ventured into the world of USA Swimming as the only
swimmer from my team. I went to much bigger meets farther from where we lived with dozens of teams and hundreds of athletes, but I stood alone. I could not tell you any of my times
from those meets, but I can tell you all the people from other teams who reached out to me and offered to let me be a part of their team.”
Favorite coaching memory: “Any first day of practice to start the season.”
Zach Foster, Baseball
Most recent coaching position: Assistant baseball coach at Pitt-Bradford
Athletic career: A former star pitcher for the Panthers from 2005-08 under Butler, he was the first Pitt-Bradford player drafted to play professional baseball and played six years of professional baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system.
Coaching philosophy: “My coaching philosophy is centered around servant leadership. To be able to make an impact in people's lives on the field and off.”
What he looks for in a player: “First and foremost - character. Also the ability to play the sport at a high level.”
Favorite coaching memory: “Having our guys send Coach Bret Butler off with a win in his last game as head coach.”
Favorite memory of competing: “My first Big League outing against the Boston Red Sox. So many nerves pitching in front of 15,000 people, but so much adrenaline!”
Biggest coaching challenge at Pitt-Bradford: “Trying to fill the role that I'm taking over. Coach Butler did and continues to do tremendous things at the university. He's a tough act to follow.”
Marquis Walker, Women's soccer
Most recent coaching position: Head girls' soccer coach at Hudson (Ohio) High School, which finished the 2015 season ranked No. 7 in the state with a record of 15-2-2.
First season: Guided the Panthers to a 5-1-3 conference record and the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference semifinal.
His advice for parents of young athletes: “Find as many high quality training opportunities as possible. Oftentimes, families will look for the best team to get their child on that goes to many tournaments or play in multiple leagues. I personally think that this does not allow for the repetition that is needed to develop skills by young players. Games are great and fun, but cannot replace the development that is done in training sessions.”
What he looks for in an athlete: “The first is someone who is a competitor and does not want to lose. This can be easily seen when a player loses a ball - does she stand and watch or put her head down, or does she try to win it back immediately no matter what position she plays.”
Nathan Whitehurst, Men's soccer
Most recent coaching position: Assistant men's coach at Allegheny College
Coaching goals: “If I can train and motivate our players to perform at their highest level each and every day on the field, in the classroom and in our community, then our season will be considered a success.”
What he looks for in an athlete: “I look for players who really understand the game. Players with technical ability and tactical awareness are the optimal recruits. They are the ones you can really build a team around.”
Favorite coaching memory: “My favorite memory of coaching is from coaching high school. We played the same team in the state tournament three years in a row. For two years, we lost with young players. The third year, we ended up winning. The players had really developed, and it was very rewarding seeing them improve that much.”
Biggest coaching challenge at Pitt- Bradford: “I think my biggest coaching challenge here is a separation in the conference between the top half and the bottom half teams. The challenge is taking the team into that top half and staying there.”