A Woman Leading Men

Elle Kosciuk, a former standout athlete at Clarke University, has been hired to become the new head men’s volleyball coach. This hiring is notable because she is a female coach heading a men’s volleyball team. While this hiring was met with mostly positive reviews it has not guarded her from discrimination.

Kosciuk, a former two-time honorable mention all-American on the Clarke University women’s volleyball team, has always been around the game of volleyball. Her parents played volleyball at the collegiate level and both served as coaches for multiple national qualifying club teams in the Midwest. Koscuik began playing volleyball in the third grade. This is earlier then most female volleyball players, meaning that Elle Kosciuk’s volleyball experience and expertise cannot be denied.  Kosciuk also had the advantage of having a degree, and is certified, as an athletic trainer. She worked with both middle school athletes before returning to coach at Clarke. It would be hard for anyone to envision an athlete having any complaints about a coach with a history of playing success in the sport and a detailed understanding of how the body can be injured and healed.

Recently, while at a team weightlifting session, coach Kosciuk heard a player comment under their breath “you’re not with the women anymore,” in response to something that he had told the men to do during their lift. Koscuik admitted that what was said “bothered her” in the moment. Coach Koscuik believed that this comment was made only because she was a woman and had only coached women up to that point. Koscuik also noted that this student most likely made that statement because he believed that her experience coaching the women’s volleyball team wasn’t enough to qualify Koscuik to coach the men’s volleyball team. She also theorized that this statement could have also been rooted in sexism but gave the student the benefit of the doubt and said, “there’s no way to know what he really meant.”

Coach Koscuik did acknowledge that the statement, given the context and tone in which it was said, was at least inadvertently sexist in nature. However, at the very worst, the statement was meant to belittle her time and success with the women’s volleyball team as both a coach and a player, This would then justify that Coach Koscuik’s authority was not enough to tell him what to do. Coach Koscuik thought a statements like that would be rare because, as she pointed out, that while a large majority of men’s volleyball players might not have had a woman as their head coach, it’s not an uncommon occurrence and that there was a significant number of players on the current men’s volleyball that were coached by women in high school.

According to Nick Ramos, a senior on the men’s volleyball team who has seen coach Koscuik serve as an athletic trainer for the men’s volleyball team and assistant coach for the women’s team, no one on the team was bothered by her age, 26. Ramos even went as far as to call her “very knowledgeable” about volleyball. He spoke with reverence about her being a two-time honorable mention all-American while coach Kuiscuik was a player at Clarke. Also, while Ramos said he’d never had a female head coach, he did say that it’s not unheard of for the men’s volleyball team to have female head coaches. Ramos, himself, doesn’t take issue with having Coach Kuscuik leading the team. Coach Elle Koscuik’s has also gained the trust of Athletic Director Curt Long. When Clarke University began searching for Coach Nick Clark’s replacement after the 2018-2019 school year, Athletic Director Long said Clarke University opened a “national search” to find a replacement men’s head volleyball coach. Coach Koscuik began as just one of many candidates before coming out on top. Athletic Director Long did have reservations about Coach Koscuik’s age, which he said is normal when “hiring someone so close in age to the athletes” but went on to say that those apprehensions were quelled because of Coach Koscuik being “a person of high character.” All of Coach Koscuik’s positives were enough to overcome the negative speculations of the athletic director in charge of hiring her. His job also depended on whether or not Coach Koscuik did a good job.

While Coach Koscuik isn’t qualified enough for the student athlete who said, “you’re not with the women anymore”, a phrase that coach Koscuik heard the player say and refused to acknowledge. Koscuik said she is “determined to prove herself.” Coach Elle Koscuik has earned the confidence of Clarke University, Athletic Director Long and the confidence all but one of her players. Koscuik has earned her title as head men’s volleyball coach.


–Marcus Lopez

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