In an emotional final interview as a coach at Kutztown University, field hockey head coach Betty Wesner discussed her feelings on leaving the University as KU’s longest tenured coach, and the longest coach of field hockey in PSAC history. Wesner finishes her career at KU in a retirement that is effective as of June 28, 2013, and although she has many positive memories as a Golden Bear coach, not all is well with her departure with the school.
Wesner was quick to note some changes in the University’s athletic program. Although she would not confirm that these changes drove her to have bitterness towards KU’s athletic program, she did say that it was more of a compiling of reasons for her to decide that “the timing was just right.”
“There have been negative changes,” she said. “They’ve negatively affected my program I felt, but I mean it’s putting everything together. It’s just the right time. I feel that I’ve put enough time in here, and it’s time to open a new chapter in my life, so to speak.”
What coach Wesner claims to be minor “observations” in recent history is the fact that athletes don’t perform with the same “heart” that they used to.
“The past generations, they just played with a lot of heart. Those older teams just had a different mentality than this newer generation,” she said. “You know, this newer generation talks a big game, and they say they’re going to do this and they say they’re going to do that, but a lot of them don’t play with a lot of heart.”
She went on to say that her undefeated team in 1988 was her defining season as a coach at KU. That season, her team reached a school-record 18 wins, and she received three Philadelphia Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (PAIAW) conference crowns and coached 19 PAIAW all-stars.
“That year we didn’t lose. I knew when we stepped on the field that we were going to win every game,” Wesner said.
The response to coach Wesner’s retirement announcement was overwhelmingly shocked, due to the fact that she kept it largely a secret. Coach Wesner said that she wanted to keep it as quiet as she could, due to the fact that she didn’t want it affecting her player’s on-field performance. She also went on to say that this year, despite a 5-12 record, has been one of her most enjoyable seasons ever.
“My six seniors have just been awesome to work with,” she said. “Normally never know what our record is, but if I were to look back at this season and look at our successes both on and off the field, it doesn’t reflect our record. It’s not that it was like, ‘oh my god, I can’t stand another season here.’ This was probably one of my most enjoyable seasons. I’m leaving behind a really good nucleus of student athletes along with their families. But I think when you’re in what I’m in, you always have regrets. There’s never a good time to leave.”
Despite her positive feelings for her time at KU, coach Wesner also had comments about the mentality of coaching as a whole.
When asked if there was one thing she would like to say to people upon her departure, she became emotional, saying, “There’s probably a lot more that goes into coaching than winning. There’s a lot more involved in coaching than just plain winning. I think that on this level, if you teach people, if you treat people with respect, then you’re going to get respected back. In our case, it’s not so much about winning on the field but it’s about doing nice things for each other. The sad thing about it is a lot of people keep their jobs because they win or lose, and it’s sort of sad. I know over the years good people have been let go because they lose.”
Wesner also did not excuse athletic director Greg Bamberger from such practices in athletic mentality, which was taken under his direction. She said that, although it’s just an observation and that she doesn’t have any negative feelings towards the university, she feels that the winning-above-all mentality is “KU athletics as a whole.” She also added that this is a mentality that almost all universities have adopted and that it really depends on the director of athletics.
All other comments aside, coach Wesner made it very clear that her overall experience at KU was positive.
“I can’t thank KU enough for allowing me to stay all these years, and for paying me to do something I love” she said. “I feel very fortunate to say that I have been a coach here.”
She also said that although she would help any athletes or the new coach with anything, she is going to try to not be involved with the transition.
“I decided to retire and that’s what I want to do,” she said.
Coach Wesner’s final words were about how she wants to be remembered as a coach. “As an advocate for KU athletics and especially for my fellow colleges, I know how hard they work. I know how much money they raise for their own scholarships, and I’m not sure the entire university community knows that. It’s amazing what we do.”
By Nick Carson