New Coaches Bring Energy to the Athletic Department

Earlier this month, the College’s athletic department announced that it filled open coaching positions on the men’s lacrosse, women’s soccer, and softball teams. All three of these new coaches are stepping into their roles in the unusual and challenging pandemic atmosphere, but approach their new roles in Oberlin athletics with optimism. 

Ryan Polak, who will step in as the men’s lacrosse head coach at the end of the month, spent the last three years as the lead assistant coach in the Kenyon College lacrosse program. Prior to that, he was the director of True Lacrosse Idaho while simultaneously working as the head lacrosse coach at Bishop Kelly High School.

Though he has a range of experience coaching lacrosse at multiple levels and in multiple locations, Polak was particularly drawn to Oberlin both for itsathletic program but also as a school.

“Oberlin’s reputation of being one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country played a big role in my interest,” Polak said. “Working with extremely bright and creative students is something I have a passion for. I feel the students at Oberlin will push me to be the best version of myself. From an athletic standpoint, the facilities, athletic department, and growing support from the College really stood out to me.”

Joclyn Fada, who last worked as an assistant coach for Cleveland State University during their shortened 2019–2020 season, will join the softball team as an assistant coach. Despite her first college coaching position being cut short due to COVID-19, Fada’s 18 years of coaching experience from her previous job as assistant varsity softball coach at Elyria High School more than qualified her for the job. 

Like Polak, Fada was drawn to the people on Oberlin’s campus and its unique atmosphere.

“I like the small-campus feel,” she said. “It feels more intimate and welcoming.”

Following a successful three seasons as the head soccer coach at Berea-Midpark High School, Abbey Golden will fill the position of women’s soccer assistant coach. She and Fada have both coached in Lorain County, where Golden spent four seasons at Midview High School and won the Lorain County Head Coach of the Year award twice. 

Despite the wealth of experience and success among the three coaches in their respective sports, they all acknowledge that the pandemic, compounded by the challenge of starting fresh at a new school, has dramatically altered the way they have approached their jobs.

“There are so many steps before you’re able to practice, but one little thing could set you back so far,” Golden said. “There’s so much problem-solving right now, and it’s exhausting, but you just try to stay optimistic and hope that we get out of the pandemic soon so things can return to normal.”

Fada agrees that the fear of a COVID-19 outbreak or other setback looms large.

“You’re always waiting for the next shoe to drop,” she said. “At the same time, you have to adjust to the new normal and try to make the best of it. We don’t want to get shut down, so our main priority is keeping everyone healthy and safe.”

With the cancellation of spring sports, all three coaches anticipate — or have already encountered — issues with keeping their team motivated without the promise of competition.

“At this level, everybody loves the sport enough to want to play it, so the motivation for that is innate,” Golden said. “It’s motivating them to get back into physical shape — that’s the challenge.”

Still, it hasn’t been all struggles and problem-solving for the new coaches. Polak is grateful for the opportunity to take over the lacrosse team and the time he has been able to spend with players, even if it looks a little different than normal.

“The pandemic has taught me that things change everyday and that we must make the most of our time together on the field,” he said. “For the first few days my head was spinning with both excitement and nervousness as my to-do list seemed to never stop growing. The team has had several Zoom meetings and it’s been a blast getting to know the team.”

Fada has enjoyed getting to know the softball team and Head Softball Coach Sara Schoenhoft.

“When I first met with Coach [Schoenhoft] I really liked how our knowledge complemented each other,” Fada said. “Since being here, I know that I like the environment and the energy here. The focus is on the person first, not the athlete first.”

While their transitions to Oberlin may not have been during such an uncertain time these coaches have set lofty goals for themselves and their time at Oberlin. 

“I’m excited to bring some juice to the program and take Oberlin lacrosse to new heights,” Polak said. “Oberlin has all the tools to be a top program in the conference. Every day is an opportunity for our guys to get better and set the standard that will be needed for a high level of success. Outside of athletics, I’m excited to become a member of the Oberlin community, and look forward to interacting and supporting all Obies on campus.”

Golden wants to leave a similar mark on the women’s soccer team.

“I want to get our players excited about everything they do,” she said. “I want to create and form relationships with all of them. The more we can foster those bonds, the stronger the team will be.”