The Geneseo student-athlete experience has developed a strong tradition of alumni coaches at the collegiate level.
By Brett Ford
Student-athletes are often told that what they learn in competition will apply to their in-classroom learning, but the opposite is true as well. Sometimes, they pass that knowledge on to a new generation — as coaches themselves.
Former Geneseo women’s basketball student-athlete Melissa Graham Kuberka ’13 is now the head coach of the St. John Fisher College women’s basketball team. She believes her challenging biology curriculum prepared her to face the everyday challenges of coaching the sport she loves.
“I often think about how the late nights spent studying organic chemistry prepared me for this career,” says Kuberka. “The frustration of not understanding one of those organic chemistry problems mirrors the frustration of fixing a game plan that isn’t going well. Those late nights taught me that it’s always worth it to fight to find the answer.”
It’s working out well. Kuberka recently completed her third season as head coach of the Cardinals, steering the team to the Empire 8 conference championship for the second time in her tenure. She is the 2020 Empire 8 Coach of the Year.
Kuberka is one of more than 45 Geneseo alumni who serve as coaches at higher-education institutions in western New York and beyond. Of Geneseo’s 21 athletic programs, 10 have Geneseo alumni at the helm: 20 alumni serve as Geneseo coaches.
“It’s telling of the education Geneseo student-athletes receive,” says Athletic Director Mike Mooney. “Our student-athletes have positive college experiences, thanks in large part to our coaches and staff, and in turn, look to provide others with that same caliber of experience. The proof is in the pipeline — not only in the number of alumni that Geneseo retains as coaches, but in the Greater Rochester area and across the country as well.”
Dan Moore ’06 is head coach of Geneseo men’s and women’s cross country teams and assistant coach of the Knights’ men’s and women’s track and field teams. His Geneseo education was critical, too, he says, to his success in coaching at the college level.
“As a psychology major at Geneseo, I became increasingly interested in how the body and the mind responded to workouts,” says Moore, “so I continued to pursue classes that piqued my interests and applied to my athletic career.” With his psychology background, Moore works especially with his student-athletes on intrinsic motivation and overcoming mental hurdles.
In his sixth season as head coach, Moore’s psychological approach helped the Geneseo men’s team to finish within the top 10 at NCAA Championships in four of the last five years, including a runner-up finish in 2016. The women’s team has finished within the top five on the national level in four of the past five years.
Early in their coaching careers, both Kuberka and Moore continue to learn on the go. Often, they say, coaching is trial and error. That learning, says Moore, is crucial to the success of the programs.
“Every runner is different,” he says, “so each season I need to learn how to work with each individual while understanding the team dynamic and maintaining the program’s core values.”
It’s also about experience — and confidence. As a coach, you say, you foster student-athletes to find their own way.
“Geneseo challenged me academically and athletically and has helped me develop the confidence to take on the obstacles I face on the job,” says Kuberka. “I made mistakes early on, but I continue to learn how the role of communication and personal connection with my student-athletes is what the job is all about. Basketball is just a means to help student-athletes grow into the people they want to be.”
GENESEO HAS A LONG AND REMARKABLE TRADITION of student-athletes drawing on their experience at the College as coaches at other higher-education institutions.
See a list of our alumni coaches in higher education:scene.geneseo.edu/2020/07/online-extra-geneseo-alumni-who-are-collegiate-level-coaches.
Should we add you to the list? Let us know if you are a Geneseo alum who coaches at a higher-education institution: firstname.lastname@example.org