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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Teams without head coaches find a way forward

The men’s tennis and women’s rowing teams are moving forward without head coaches.

Teams without head coaches find a way forward.jpeg
Courtesy of Logan Chang ’24

During the 2022-2023 season, Dartmouth Athletics experienced a series of coaching changes. Most recently, the head coaches for the women’s rowing team and men’s tennis team both stepped away from their roles.

Nancy LaRocque, who served as head coach of the women’s rowing team for three seasons before making the decision to step down, said that long distance has been a “challenge” for her and her fiancée, and that she will be moving to Wisconsin so they can be together.  

The coxswain of the women’s rowing team, Grace McInerney ’25, expressed her “gratefulness” to LaRocque during her tenure at Dartmouth.

“I think [Coach LaRocque] has been an incredibly kind and thoughtful person, and I think she really did try her best to get to know everyone on a one-on-one level,” McInerney said. “I think she always wanted what was the best for every athlete.”

On June 30, the Dartmouth Athletics and Recreation Department announced that Xander Centenari ’13 had stepped down as the John Kenfield and Chuck Kinyon men’s tennis head coach. Centenari led the Big Green for four years before deciding to step back due to his “vision of the lifestyle and support system for [his] family” not aligning, according to Dartmouth Athletics.

For Alex Knox-Jones ’25, Centenari’s departure was “tough,” but Knox-Jones said he is looking forward to the future under the leadership of interim head coach Raleigh Grossbaum. Knox-Jones added that he is still casually training with Centenari.

“Coach Centenari is actually still coming in to hit with me quite a lot when I’m on campus because he’s still living in the area,” Knox-Jones said. 

Men’s tennis team captain Logan Chang ’24 said his position as captain has never been more important as the team transitions to Grossbaum’s interim tenure as coach.

“I think it’s important for [my co-captain] Alejandro Quiles [’23] and I to be very in tune with whoever comes in to fill the role,” Chang said. “We want to be able to help the future head coach transition to what life is like [as] the coach of the Dartmouth team by giving the coach a lay of the land of how we see our team, and ways that they can optimize practice and our schedule.”

For the upcoming season, the men’s tennis team only has one entering recruit, representing a significant decrease from previous years, according to Chang. In the Class of 2024, Chang said there were three recruits.

“We only have one player who’s committed this year — who was recruited by Centenari,” Chang said. “It will be up to that athlete to determine whether or not Dartmouth and the new coaching staff [are] still what’s best for him. I think Coach Centenari did a good job of setting the groundwork and for recruiting the next group of athletes.”

While the women’s rowing team looks for a new head coach, assistant coach Merritt Denham has led the athletes into the summer training season, which started in June. Sonya Danchak ’25 explained that Denham has been “instrumental” to her summer training plan.

“During this summer period, I feel that Coach Merritt has really stepped up and given us an outlined training plan,” Danchak said. “Our captains for next year have also helped to fill in that role, so I feel it’s going as smoothly as it can be.”

Members of the women’s rowing team also explained LaRocque’s transition away from the program came at an “opportune” time, according to McInerney.

“Summer training is more self-guided anyway, so [LaRocque’s departure] has had a minimal impact,” Emma Hochberg ’25 said. “I think communication is light in the summers from the coaches, so it's been self-guided in the same way.”

Chang said he values a “commitment to both academic and athletic excellence” in a potential head coach. 

“I think what’s important is finding a coach that understands the work-life balance of Dartmouth,” McInerney said. “I think that something we struggled with in the past was our coaching staff being unfamiliar with Dartmouth’s way of life.”

Chang explained he is seeking a head coach who understands the unique culture of Dartmouth athletics and the school in general.

“I think it’s really important for someone who understands not only what it takes to be a student athlete at an Ivy League school, but also at a school like Dartmouth,” Chang said. “I feel like Dartmouth is a special school in terms of the types of traditions and events that we have, so I feel like someone who can understand the demands of both our academic and athletic lives would be great.”

Hochberg said she hopes the new head coach of women’s rowing will come from a school similar to Dartmouth.

“I hope we find a coach that has a bit more familiarity with Dartmouth or this kind of school,” Hochberg said. “I hope we find someone who is very open to athlete input about certain Dartmouth-related things that are important to know when you’re coaching and making a training plan.”

The men’s tennis and women’s rowing coaching changes come on the heels of the football team’s abrupt coaching change this year.

While Buddy Teevens continues to recover from a March bicycle accident, the Dartmouth football team has been practicing under Sammy McCorkle, who will lead the team as interim coach in the 2023 season after leading spring training.

Daisy Dundas ’25 explained that she is now looking to her women’s rowing teammates for support as Dartmouth seeks a new head coach.

“Right now, it’s actually fantastic because we’re pretty tight as a class, and I think we have enough discipline,” Dundas said. “Even though we’ve faced the challenge of training without a coach, I think it has been working out as well as it can.”