After seven years of coaching men’s and women’s tennis, Goshen College’s director of tennis, Evan Atkinson, resigned on Monday.“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “I always thought I would be a part of this community until I died.”
Atkinson told the team of his decision after their match last Saturday, but officially handed in his resignation Monday.
“He loves the team,” said Hannah McCoy, a senior tennis player, “and he loves the program, so it kind of just came out of nowhere.”
Atkinson said that he believes his decision to resign, though difficult, is the right decision for him and the team as a whole.
“Our team really cares and they deserve to have a coach who can make tennis a priority,” Atikinson said. “Someone who can put a lot of time in, and that’s time I can’t give.”
McCoy agreed, saying that “he put a lot into the team, [but] it was really hard for him because he isn’t a full time coach … I think the team felt like we wanted more, but he just wasn’t able to do that for us.”
Atkinson, who was working in a half-time position, has been picking up more responsibilities at his day job as a physical education teacher for Concord Intermediate School. He also has two children, and the combination of parenting, teaching and coaching was too much for Atkinson to commit to.
“When I started,” Atkinson said, “my youngest was just born. He’s 7 now. He was a baby and now he’s a first-grader. My oldest is a third-grader and my wife works full time … It’s really hard now to coach and still make family a priority.”
Pedro Scattolon, a sophomore on the team, agreed. He said, “It’s sad that he is leaving, but in the end, I know it’s the best for us.” Scattolon noted that the team rarely practiced during the offseason and that, in the winter, they didn’t go to any indoor facilities and had no official conditioning plan.
“In the spring when the weather is bad,” he said, the team needs a coach that “can take us to play indoor — or create any type of practice.”
He said that the team had a conversation with GC’s athletic director, Erica Albertin, asking for the opportunity to create a full-time coaching position.
After their conversation, Albertin told him that she would discuss the possibility with Atkinson, which was when he first began to consider the possibility of resignation.
Atkinson mentioned that this was his first year that all of the men’s top six players were international students, who are generally used to year-round tennis.
“They just want to hit the court,” Atkinson said. Scattolon agreed, with the team only having two spring matches this year and little outside training.
“The main thing I expect looking forward is that the coach can get a full time job,” Scattolon said. However, he expressed sadness at Albertin’s comments that “they review every position once a year and they already reviewed [director of tennis] for this year, so they would need to wait until next year to review the position and see if there is a possibility [for] a full-time job.”
“The conversation with [Albertin] was not positive at all,” Scattolon said.
Even though the team is already strong, McCoy said, she believes that they “have a lot of improvement to do … I think getting a new coach might just open the doors to that.”
“We kind of feel separated,” she added. The team doesn’t have its own locker room, and with significantly fewer offseason workouts than many other sports, McCoy says they often feel isolated — and the team’s hope is that a full time coach will be able to advocate much more for them.
With one match left in the spring season, Atkinson will remain in his current coaching position until the season’s conclusion. He also said he will keep working with the team until a new coach is named.
“I’m going to stay active in our community … I’m going to keep cheering on the Goshen tennis team,” he said.
“I trust Erica will have a solution, and I trust that admin as a whole will make a good decision on how to facilitate the team’s success.”
Editor’s note: In the print version of the article, a quote was misattributed to Atkinson. It was Scattolon, not Atkinson, who said that “The conversation with [Albertin] was not positive at all.”