Coaching from off the field, off the sidelines, off the campus

With Ivy League sports on hold, two new head coaches—women’s volleyball and women’s soccer—are trying to navigate an unusual situation.

Instead of leading practices or workouts, Meredith Schamun started a book club with her team. Casey Brown had her players come to a Zoom meeting with an item or souvenir that explained why they play the game.

Casey Brown portrait on left, Meredith Schamun portrait on right
Casey Brown (left) and Meredith Schamun. (Image: The Pennsylvania Gazette)

What do you do when you’re hired to coach a team right as your new campus is being shut down by a global pandemic? How do you keep your players engaged when your first season as head coach is put on hold, as the Ivy League announced in July with the cancellation of all intercollegiate competition for the entire fall semester?

For Schamun and Brown—the new head coaches of the Penn women’s volleyball and women’s soccer teams, respectively—it’s all about resilience and resourcefulness.

“We’ve laughed,” Schamun says. “And we’ve had more serious conversations about what we’re trying to do to get past some of the weirdness of not being able to be with our teams. We’ll swap stories and ideas—and give each other a little support along the way.”

One of the only times Schuman has ever been on Penn’s campus was on March 11, for her final round of job interviews. While there, the Ivy League announced that the remainder of the spring sports season would be canceled, adding a foreboding aura to what should have been an exciting time. “It was a little bit of a hectic day,” says Schamun, who was officially hired to run the volleyball program on March 20. Three days later, Brown was named the head women’s soccer coach, as both coaches snuck in under the wire before a University-wide hiring freeze.

“I’m excited to not just continue what’s been good,” Brown says. “I’m a competitor. I’m hungry to win. I want to compete for Ivy League championships, I want to be in the NCAA Tournament, and I want to push the threshold of what we can be nationally.”

Schamun might have a tougher road ahead of her. She’ll be the fourth coach in five years for a volleyball program that’s been beset by upheaval, with players filing formal grievances against former coach Iain Braddak two years ago and the 2019 season getting cut short due to the discovery of offensive posters in the team locker room.

Read more at The Pennsylvania Gazette.