News

From Student-Athlete to Alumni-Coach

Hilary Bentman, Brand Journalist
Women's rugby team in a huddle
Women's rugby team huddles around their coaches, Danna Kutchner '15 and Alyssa Bauer '14.

Alyssa Bauer had no prior rugby experience before stepping onto the pitch her sophomore year at Widener.

But the psychology major was a born athlete, loved to compete, and immediately appreciated the camaraderie and family atmosphere of the women’s rugby squad. She played on the club team until graduating in 2014.

“Rugby had such a powerful impact on my time at Widener and in my life after – the connections with teammates who are still my best friends. And rugby, particularly Widener rugby, taught me to trust myself, and taught me leadership, which I apply in life and at my job,” said Bauer, a behavioral specialist consultant.

Bauer didn’t want her rugby experience to end after graduation. So when an opportunity opened to coach her former team, alongside former teammate Danna Kutchner ’15, she jumped at the offer.

Kutchner did the same.

“I loved playing and everything about being on the team,” said Kutchner, an accounting administrator at Merion Golf Club. “When I graduated, there was a void because I wasn’t playing anymore. Coaching gave me that connection back.” 

Bauer and Kutchner are not the only Widener alumni to find their way back to their old teams. In fact, nearly all of the current club team coaches are Widener graduates and former players themselves.

Alumni helm the ice hockey, men’s and women’s soccer clubs, and men’s and women’s rugby sides.

Ice hockey team on the bench with coaches
Ice hockey coaches and alumni Ray McNulty and Mike Cirard give players direction during a game.

All have returned out of a love of the game, a desire to give back to their alma mater and help the next generation of players succeed, and to keep their old teams growing and thriving. 

“I was taught to leave it better than when you got there,” said ice hockey coach Mike Cirard, who laced up his skates and played for the team as a student while earning degrees in finance and accounting. The 2009 graduate started coaching the squad when he returned to Widener to pursue his MBA.

Cirard is still coaching, splitting duties with his brother, Peter, and Ray McNulty.

“I enjoyed my time so much at Widener that I’ve chosen to dedicate my first 10 years out of college back to the school and the hockey program,” said McNulty, an information security analyst who earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Widener in 2010 and 2017, respectively.

Current players said having alumni coaches offers a sense of cohesiveness and family.

The coaches are familiar with the Widener community and culture, the academic rigor of programs, and the university’s schedule.

Just having the experience of being a student-athlete and them giving us advice on and off the ice, not only about hockey, but about classes and schedules, is a blessing. — Pat Stermel ’20, accounting major and ice hockey captain

Adds women’s rugby captain and nursing major Jadelyn Rivera ’20: “Being coached by former team members has brought us together and created the rugby family that I am so proud to be a part of. They truly make a difference to our team because they have the same passion for the sport that they did years ago and that my teammates and I have today.” 

Men's soccer club team
Men's soccer club team

The club team coaches all have full-time jobs away from the fields and rinks. But they find a way to balance their commitments, which include multiple practices per week and out-of-town matches.

“Thanks to Widener I have excellent time management skills,” said Christian Antisell ’19, a highway designer and coach of the men’s soccer club. 

Club teams provide Widener students a chance to play the sport they love without having to make the full commitment to an NCAA team.

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