Grad assistant program teaches future coaches

Embracing college athletics is different for everyone. For some, it’s putting on school colors and leading cheers from the stands. For others, it’s putting on a jersey with the name of their school embroidered across its chest. But, for a very select few, it’s the opportunity to walk the sidelines, get their feet wet and begin their coaching career.

This opportunity is known as a Graduate Assistant position, open to graduate students pursuing their master’s degree who plan to enter the coaching field. Truman Athletics currently hosts five graduate assistant coaches, but the department has been developing young coaches for years.

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Sarah Eagan, Helias HIgh School girl’s basketball head coach, embraces a player during a 2016 district championship. Submitted photo.

Alumna Sarah Eagan served as a GA for the women’s basketball team from 2013-15 and currently is the head coach of the Helias Catholic High School varsity girls basketball team in Jefferson City, Missouri. Eagan used her two years at Truman to acquire a master’s degree in leadership and says she learned valuable coaching tools that prepared her for a head coaching job.

In her first year as head coach, Eagan led her team to a 16-12 record and a Class 4 District Championship title. Eagan says her first year as a head coach was a learning experience and she felt prepared to take the job after her two years of coaching at Truman.

“I honestly think my leadership skills from my master’s program at Truman really played a huge role this year,” Eagan says. “It was my program this year, and I had to lead as a head coach for the first time. … Going straight into a coaching job, I don’t think I would have had enough knowledge to even be an assistant coach right away. I think the GA spot slowly transitions you into being ready to take on any and every role after that.”

Eagan says she has implemented offensive schemes she learned at Truman into Helias’ style of play, and though they’re only high school athletes, Eagan says she aims to teach them to play and practice with a college-level competitive drive. Eagan says her biggest takeaway from her GA experience was fully realizing the importance of individual player development.

After a successful first year, Eagan says she is very happy at Helias but is keeping her options open and looking at potential opportunities to return to the collegiate level. Eagan says her experiences at Truman could draw the attention of potential employers.

“It’s on all my résumés,” Eagan says. “A lot of the job search process and getting interviews has come down to seeing the experience of Truman State on my résumé. They know we had a lot of success while I was there, and they know [Head Coach Amy Eagan] runs a really good program.”

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