The right place at the right time. This is the simple explanation given by new women’s soccer assistant coach Emily Wyffels ’05 as to how she landed a job that she says feels nothing like work, despite up to 14 hour work days.
“I was a December grad last year and had no real plans,” she said. “I had a lease on an apartment in Collegetown that I had to finish, and I had an on campus job I was allowed to keep, so I just decided to stick around for the semester. My parents were thrilled, of course.”
[img_assist|nid=17994|title=Battle tested|desc=Emily Wyffels ’05, who played from 2001 to 2004 for the women’s soccer team, returns to this year’s squad as the new assistant coach.|link=popup|align=right|width=71|height=100]
When head coach Gretchen Zigante was named to the interim position last year, she looked around and saw someone who would fit perfectly into the team’s changing image, coming on the heels of a season where the Red finished 7-6-1 (1-4-1 Ivy) despite starting the season with six straight wins.
“Emily has a real intuitive sense about the game,” Zigante said about the former captain. “She overcame a lot of adversity as a player, battling injuries for two years, and didn’t always get a lot of playing time. But she was always a leader, and she worked so naturally with others. She just has such a passion for this team.”
Zigante pointed out that the main benefit of having Wyffels aboard is that she is a Cornell graduate, and a very recent one at that.
“She wasn’t going to coach anywhere else,” Zigante said. “Here, though, she will be a valuable recruiting tool, coming from Cornell, as well as a great way to create alumni relationships. I mean, she has relationships already that go back eight years, which will be a wonderful asset for us.”
Not the only one to stress Wyffel’s connection to Cornell, Wyffel herself rhapsodizes about her time spent on the team.
“I love this team,” she said. “When my last year started, it was weird to think that this was it. It is incredibly hard to separate myself from soccer. I can’t really keep myself away. It is something I always want to do, coaching too.”
One issue that does arise from being a recent Cornell graduate is Wyffels makes the quick jump from having a on the field relationship with several of the current players to attempting to foster a new player-coach relationship. Although, Wyffels said that the maturity of the team makes the process easier.
“The team really has responded,” she said. “It was a struggle at first to go from that friends relationship to that professional relationship. A lot of these kids were freshman when I was a captain senior year, though, so there was already that little bit of a separation. They are just so mature and respectful, though. They know that I’m here to do a job.”
Zigante points out that it is also Wyffels maturity that leads to the ease at which she has slid into her new position.
“She’s been able to maintain her friendships, while also realizing that she has to have a new relationship with a lot of these kids,” Zigante said. “When she got the job, she was living with some kids on the team, and she moved out when I made her a coach, which showed a lot of maturity.”
Both coaches agree, too, that having such a young presence on the coaching staff will be a helpful liaison between the players and the coaching staff.
“I feel that players feel they can talk to me,” Zigante said. “But Emily gives me a good honest process to get a good sense of what the teams attitude and feelings are.”
“Yeah, it’s been a while since I was a freshman,” Wyffels said. “But I think it will be nice for the players to have someone there to tell them it’ll be OK, because I know how overwhelming it can be. I can tell them some things I wish I had known my freshmen year. I can tell them how this college thing can be pretty good.”
After taking on nine new freshmen and retaining a large amount of players from last year, the team checks in with an impressive 34 players, yet only two coaches. This, Zigante said, means Wyffels will by no means be sitting aside passively.
“I threw her right into the fire, and gave her full reign to coach,” she said. “I’m able to split the team up into multiple groups when we do drills, and just let her take up to half the team. Of course I do check over my shoulder every now and then,” Zigante said.
As Wyffels moves up the coaching ranks, recently earning her national D coaching license, she says she is learning things left and right, but most importantly the necessity of patience.
“I used to be a little more emotional,” she said. “The last two years, I’ve gotten better and learned to be more patient. This game is all about the players trusting the coach, which arises from the coaches understanding the system and having the patience to explain it. Since getting my license, I’ve learned a lot. I never realized that there were so many tactical and technical parts of the game, in addition to the emotional and physical aspect. Although, I wouldn’t say I don’t scream on occasion.”
Wyffels plans to do service with Americorps after spending this year with the Red. After that, she says, “who knows?”