Athletic coaches are becoming celebrities on Towson’s campus.
Rob Ambrose and Pat Skerry appear on sports talk radio shows in the area and have become as much of a face as the school president or the student leaders on campus.
But behind the head coaches of athletic teams at the University are the smaller names – many of whom work for free.
The Towerlight spoke to two volunteer coaches from both lacrosse teams about what volunteering means to them, and why they choose to balance the team and their paid jobs outside of the athletic department.
Scott Rodgers, Men’s Lacrosse
Although Scott Rodgers has received a number of offers to become a paid assistant lacrosse coach, he has turned them all down.
Rodgers instead elects to maintain his current life of playing for the Major League Lacrosse team the Ohio Machine on the weekends and spending Monday through Thursday as an assistant coach for the men’s lacrosse team.
However, Rodgers said he prefers it if the players don’t refer to him as “coach.”
“I don’t think of myself as a coach. I think of myself as a go-between between the players and coaches,” he said.
Rodgers said he turned down the offers to become an assistant coach because he still enjoys playing MLL, and he is not interested in doing the recruiting aspect of a paid coach’s job.
“I’m all about forming relationships with the guys and I just like to be involved. It’s different if you’re a paid coach,” he said.
Prior to coming to Towson, Rodgers was a volunteer coach at Marquette for two years after playing goalie for Notre Dame’s lacrosse team in college for five years.
However, Rodgers wanted to get closer to his hometown of Long Island, N.Y., so he chose to become an assistant at Towson while running lacrosse camps over the summer to make money.
“There’s no shortage of youth lacrosse, and with all the schools in Baltimore there’s a bunch of great college lacrosse and I wanted to surround myself with that kind of talent,” he said.
Long Island is important to Head Coach Shawn Nadelen, who said he grew up in a blue-collar background, which fosters his hard work ethic.
Rodgers missed this weekend’s game against UMass, the first game he missed all year because of scheduling conflicts with the Machine’s training camp.
Still, Rodgers said Nadelen is supportive of his role in MLL and understands Rodgers’s two commitments may overlap.
“Coach Nadelen has a great understanding of that competitive drive, he has it too. We’re all on the same page, they know what I do and they understand,” Rodgers said.
Nadelen coached Rodgers on the U.S. National team for one year, and also played in the MLL.
“We have an enthusiastic staff that is really passionate, and that’s what I was really looking for in a team,” Rodgers said.
Michael Molster, Women’s Lacrosse
Towson women’s lacrosse volunteer coach Michael Molster needs to pay the bills somehow, so he works in independent sales at Complete Landscaping Service in Bowie, Md.
After working for years at The Washington Post and coaching at the high school level, Molster realized he needed more time for his passion.
“[Coach and working at the Washington Post] became really restrictive … Much like everyone in the office went and played golf, I coached lacrosse,” he said. “A friend of mine started the landscaping company and we grew it by leaps and bounds, but that gave me time to set my own schedule … around lacrosse games and practices.”
Balancing lacrosse and the work field is not a new act for Molster. He grew up in Maryland, went to Arundel High School and played in college at UMBC.
This experience helped him understand the mentality of student-athletes on the high school and college levels.
“Coaching at the college level is much more serious than high school,” Molster said. “High school, you’re working with girls and guys and their growing and you’re setting a good example for them. But here, there is so much more involved, from the strength and conditioning to the nutrition. Their lives are lacrosse and school and they are balancing them both.”
Molster started coaching men’s lacrosse at Chesapeake High School in 1995 and spent time at a handful of local schools before making the jump to college at Johns Hopkins.
After three years with the Blue Jays, he became a volunteer coach at Towson two years ago, working primarily with goalies, where he said he has enjoyed his time.
“I love it here at Towson,” Molster said. “What I get out of it personally are the interactions with the girls and the coaching staff. You build friendships and relationships … and you live their lives. You hear what’s going right and going wrong and that’s fulfilling … For me, this fills a need.”
Molster’s son, Alex, is a freshman playing at Penn State. When his son graduates, Molster said he is considering applying for a full-time coaching position, allowing him to focus solely on lacrosse for the first time.
Molster said his experience at both Johns Hopkins and Towson will bode well for his future in lacrosse.
“Just like interning, [volunteering] is a resume builder,” he said. “I’ll be able to walk away with [Towson coach] Sonia LaMonica and [Hopkins coach] June Tucker … hopefully saying I made positive contributions to their program. And I wasn’t paid to do it.”