ARMS Software Coach of the Month
The ARMS Software Coach of the Month is awarded to a coach who has been successful on or off the field, and exemplifies the characteristics of a strong female role model: resilient, innovative, passionate, authentic, selfless and inspiring.
Fresno State’s Swimming & Diving Head Coach Jeanne Fleck is our February ARMS Software Coach of the Month! Fleck is in her tenth season at Fresno State, where her team just wrapped up their regular season by defeating their Mountain West rival for a second time this year. Her team also once again earned Scholar All-America honors from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).
Fleck, who started the NCAA Division I program from scratch, will now lead the Dogs into the Mountain West Championship in San Antonio, Texas.
Not only does Fleck have an impact on her student-athletes, but she has also volunteered her time to give back to the profession and help women stay in coaching. Fleck is participating in the Alliance of Women Coaches Mentor Program this year as a Gold mentor, working with two mentees.
Jess Mosbaugh (assistant swim coach at Pepperdine), one of the coaches that Fleck is mentoring, had this to say about the veteran coach:
“Jeanne has been a tremendous encouragement for a young collegiate coach in the start of her career. She is patient, understanding, well-spoken and knowledgeable about athletic departments and coaching staffs, as well as the ins and outs of team dynamics. She has helped me in the process of fine-tuning my voice as a coach by having open dialogues that have challenged my viewpoints of coaching. Jeanne has been an amazing connection to have and I am thankful that the Alliance has allowed me the privilege of pairing me up with Jeanne as my mentor.”
Fleck has some wisdom to share with up-and-coming coaches as well. “Please do not be intimidated by jobs or your value as a coach. One thing I learned writing for my Master’s degree is women do not always apply for jobs unless they meet all the qualifications. I say ‘Go for it’ if you have one that you are interested in! You never know until you try!”
Fleck herself had two strong women in her life who greatly influenced her. Her grandmother was “strong and loving all at the same time” and earned her Master’s degree in 1923, a feat that was rare at that time. Kathy Wickstram-Gahen was also a mentor for Fleck and, “…showed me how important it is for women to be mentally coached as well as physically.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that what she is most proud of in her career is “the impact that I have had on the young people I coach and what they go on and do with their lives.”
Congratulations Jeanne Fleck and thank you for your commitment to women coaches!
Los Angeles Sparks Assistant Coach Bobbie Kelsey is our ARMS Software Coach of the Month for January! In her first year with the WNBA team, Kelsey led the Sparks to the WNBA Finals and an exciting series against the Minnesota Lynx.
The Alliance of Women Coaches’ NCAA Women Coaches Academy faculty member recently shared her experiences with Class #43 and Academy 2.0 at the NCAA WCA. From her time as head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, to her work as an assistant coach, to a year with the Boys and Girls Club, Coach Kelsey has proven an inspiration and a force to be reckoned with on and off the court.
After starring as a player at Stanford University, Coach Kelsey returned to her alma mater 11 years later to work under legend Tara VanDerveer.
“I am most proud of the fact that I could return to Stanford, my alma mater, to help the program return to national prominence by going to four consecutive Final Fours after a 10 year absence,” Coach Kelsey said. “It was a great feeling knowing I could contribute something back to a program that had done so much for me personally as a former team member. Nothing has been more satisfying.”
Coach Kelsey was influenced by another strong woman, her grandmother, Elizabeth C. Fields.
“[She] greatly shaped who I am today because of her courage and perseverance in the face of great odds during her 92 years on earth,” Coach Kelsey said. “She passed away this past January 17th so it has been a hard adjustment knowing I cannot call her or get advice. However, she took risks and avoided the pitfalls of being a young mother can present by never giving up especially on her quest to be educated. She attended night school to receive her high school diploma then graduated with my mother from college. She was relentless which makes me who I am today. I give her all the credit for showing the way to success.”
Now on her own successful path, Coach Kelsey is generous with her time in talking to up-and-coming coaches, and has some great advice for them:
“I would encourage all women coaches to use their voice. To never shrink back in order to accommodate the insecurities of others who cannot handle their strength. It is never the right thing to be quite especially when you have something impactful to share. Also, make sure your story is crafted in a way that shows your authentic self. Who better to tell it than you. No one else can convey what you yourself know best. Use your voice! Loud and proud!”
Congratulations, Coach Bobbie Kelsey!
Coach Tara Zollinger (NCAA Women Coaches Academy Class #35) is our ARMS Software Coach of the Month for December! In her first year as a head coach, Zollinger led the Shippensburg University field hockey team to an NCAA Division II Championship.
The win makes Zollinger the first person to win an NCAA Division II National Championship in her first year as a collegiate head coach.
Zollinger is no stranger to championships. Prior to taking the helm at Shippensburg, Zollinger spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Syracuse University where she helped her team to a Division I title in 2015. As a player, she won two championships at the University of Maryland.
“When you win as a player, everything feels like it is happening so fast in super speed!” said Zollinger. “You rush the field, you’re screaming with your teammates, there is so much emotion and so much going on. As a coach when the final whistle blows and you see your athletes rush the field everything slows down. Seeing the emotion on the athletes faces, seeing them cry and cheer and laugh all at the same time, it is so rewarding.”
During her time at Syracuse, Zollinger worked under two-time NFHCA Division I National Coach of the Year, Ange Bradley. Bradley has had, and continues to have, a huge influence on Zollinger.
“She took me under her wing as a very young coach and committed to developing and mentoring me,” said Zollinger. “She has challenged me but always believed in my abilities and helped me gain confidence as a coach. I have learned a lot about the game and the coaching profession through my experiences at Syracuse. Ange inspires me to always strive for excellence and never settle for mediocrity.”
Zollinger encourages young coaches to self evaluate to learn, and then develop, their authentic leadership style.
“Be sure to stay true to your values and have a clear picture of your coaching mission,” said Zollinger. “Make sure you use your resources, take advantage of every opportunity and observe/shadow other coaches. Have a ‘do your best mentality’ where you wake up with ambition and go to bed with satisfaction.”
Congratulations, Coach Tara Zollinger!
Coach Becky Burleigh (NCAA Women Coaches Academy Class #24) is our ARMS Software Coach of the Month for November! Burleigh recently hit 400 wins when her Gators earned a 2-1 win over Missouri. This also marked UF women’s soccer’s 400th win, as Burleigh has led the program since it began in 1995.
Burleigh hits the impressive milestone in an already decorated career, which includes an NCAA Championship, two NCAA College Cup appearances, 14 Southeastern Conference titles and 20 NCAA Championships berths. She has also been named National (1998) and SEC Coach of the Year (2012, ‘10, ‘08, ‘00 & ’96).
Despite the many accolades, the NCAA Women Coaches Academy faculty member is most proud of maintaining a healthy culture of player and personal development while sustaining a high level of on the field success.
Burleigh had female role models from early on in her career. Her first two coaches in youth soccer were women, including her high school coach, so, she learned early that women could coach, unlike most of her peers who had only male coaches.
Her advice to other coaches? “Be a life-long learner. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to other coaches, in and out of your sport. Ask a lot of questions.”
Congratulations Coach Burleigh!
Coach Debbie Kiick (2016 NCAA Women Coaches Academy Class #39) is our ARMS Software Coach of the Month for October! Kiick surpassed 400 career wins at Millikin with two victories during the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Invitational September 8-9. She is currently in her 17th season directing the Big Blue volleyball program, and her career mark stands at 401-207 (.660).
Some of Kiick’s proudest moments include breaking a 50-match conference winning streak of a conference rival, and coming from behind in the 5th set (down 14-8 in a set to 15) and coming back to win the match and advance to the sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Additionally, Kiick prides herself on her desire to continue growing as a coach after 37 years in the profession, being someone her peers can count on when they need something, and that her athletes graduate, get quality jobs and go on to have successful careers.
A number of women have greatly influenced Kiick. One in particular is Margie Wright, former Head Softball Coach at Fresno State and Illinois State. Wright’s encouraging words early in Kiick’s career ignited her incredibly successful career. Kiick also credits her peer Lori Kerans – Kiick’s “go to” – as a great role model. Additionally, Millikin’s Katie Tenboer and Whitney Sowers have given her valuable insight on team development.
Coach Debbie Kiick’s advice to up-and-coming coaches:
- Gathering information from people you respect is a great way to improve your program. What you learn can help you by:
- Understanding that you are on the right track, build your confidence, and that things will work out
- Understanding that there is a different way for you to consider; it’s ok to stick with what you believe, but ask, listen, and consider pros and cons before you make a final decision.
- Develop leaders within your program to put out the small fires so you can focus on the larger issues. It helps you and it helps develop more female leaders.
- Be sure to make time for your family and the special events that are important to your family. It’s easy to get consumed with only work… but if you want to stay in the profession for the long haul, you need to be sure to enjoy the other aspects of your life that are important!
- And last but not least…. Don’t lecture your team for a long time after a loss! They are just as frustrated and disappointed as you are. 2 minutes is plenty after a match…. Instead sleep on it, come up with your plan, and address it when they are fresher and more ready to listen.
We couldn’t be more proud of Coach Kiick as she hit this milestone and continues to lead the young women at Millikin. Congratulations, Debbie!
Coach Shonda Stanton (NCAA Women Coaches Academy Class #36) is our ARMS Software Coach of the Month for September! Stanton was just named the new head softball coach at Indiana University after serving as head coach at Marshall for 18 seasons.
Stanton was also recently featured on the ‘On Deck with NFCA’ podcast. Listen to the episode here.
At Marshall, she became the winningest coach in program history with 560 victories and has posted 12 seasons with 30 or more wins. Despite those great stats, Stanton is most proud of developing people.
“My greatest accomplishments all center around building young people into strong, confident women,” said Stanton. “I am most proud of the relationships cultivated having mentored over a 100 student-athletes during my tenure at Marshall.”
As she takes over the Hoosier program, Stanton is excited to work with the players and compete in the Big Ten against phenomenal coaches and athletes.
“The opportunity to create a sustainable culture at a University where the brand is synonymous with a tradition of excellence is exhilarating.”
What advice does Stanton have for up-and-coming women coaches? She has a lot of words of wisdom:
“Bloom where you are planted! Get involved in organizations like the Alliance and your sport association. Instead of getting lost in plans or preparation, w.i.n. the day by focusing on what is important now. Connect with others and be intentional about it from picking up the phone for a brief chat to attending professional workshops. Be grateful and encourage others. You are a priority and need to schedule time for you, so you can bring your best and bring it often. Know your values and develop a small, strong inner circle of people that can help guide, encourage and challenge you. Stay in love with the game; I get to lace up my sneakers every day and play outside in the dirt -total fun zone. Think about what you get to do? I love this quote: ‘A strong woman knows she has strength for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is in the journey where she will become strong.’ Go coach your team and enjoy the journey!”
We are excited for Shonda in her new role at Indiana, and we can’t wait to see what an incredible legacy she will build there. Congratulations, Shonda!
Coach Colleen Murphy (NCAA WCA Class #38) is our ARMS Software Coach of the Month for August! Colleen was recently promoted to head coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy after serving for five years there as an assistant and associate coach. The first female swimming coach to win an NCAA national championship, Colleen has continued her success at the prestigious military academy. In her first five years there, the Falcon women have broken every school record on the books. Colleen has had an exciting journey through coaching, earning three national titles at Truman State and NCAA Division II Coach of the Year honors. She took some time off from the profession, and then returned to the high school level as the head coach at Xavier College Prep in Phoenix, AZ. After being out of college coaching for 7 years, Colleen said it’s been a long path getting to where she is now, but it’s a perfect fit for her.
Colleen’s time away from college coaching opened her eyes that it was time to start giving back more. While there are a lot of developmental women coaches in swimming, they are few and far between at the collegiate and elite levels. With great women mentors in her early coaching years, and a coach who took a chance on her to bring her back to college coaching, Colleen sees helping out other women coaches as a part of her new role. She has seen countless women leave the field because they thought they couldn’t have it all. “I have two kids, a family, a husband and I’m the primary breadwinner. It is possible to have it all and to be good at it all. I really want to help other women in the field to know that they can do it.”
We are excited for Colleen to take on this new challenge, and are incredibly proud of her work to support her fellow women coaches.
Coach Jennifer Ridgely (NCAA WCA Class #39) is our first ARMS Software Coach of the Month! In her 11th season at Delaware State, Jennifer was voted Coach of the Year for her university and her conference. Entering the conference championship seeded 4th, her team won and earned an automatic bid to the national championship. On top of their athletic success, her team also won the NCEA (National Collegiate Equestrian Association) Team Sportsmanship award.
Jennifer led her team to these successes, all while undergoing 16 rounds of chemo, a double mastectomy and multiple rounds of radiation for breast cancer. “A breast cancer diagnosis is certainly a scary thing to hear but I just took it in stride as I would a meet the team lost and went to work on what appointments needed to be made and used the same work ethic and determination with my team and it worked,” said Jennifer. “I was successful beating cancer and the team was successful winning meets! I believe everything is a life lesson and this year certainly had its highs and lows, but I kept moving forward and kept my eye on the prize! Cancer free and a winning team! Not to mention taking my wig off and swinging it around was very motivational for the team!”
We couldn’t be more proud of all of her successes and the role model she continues to be for her athletes.