Blogs and Commentary

posted 09.05.2013 at 12.14 p.m. by Jac Coyne

Stimmel Uses MCLA Springboard to Chase Dream

Andrew Stimmel knew he wasn't going to be at Grove City forever.

When Stimmel, a captain at Ohio State during his playing days, arrived at Grove City – a small, faith-based liberal arts college about an hour north of Pittsburgh – he hoped to elevate the Wolverine program into one of the top teams in MCLA Division II while getting some college coaching experience. Grove City also provided Stimmel with the ability to put his faith in action, which is very important to him.

It was an interesting choice. While the MCLA has sent coaches to the varsity ranks in the past, it's not an easy springboard with the lingering (and oftentimes inaccurate) stereotypes of the non-varsity league. Now that Stimmel has joined the Yale staff as a volunteer assistant, he feels like his experience at Grove City will serve him well at the Division I level.

"We've all seen that the MCLA can improve, but overall, I think it's a great opportunity for young coaches to get experience like I had," he said. "It allows you to jump right in, have a hands-on experience, develop a team across the board and really take ownership. For a coach that is looking at the MCLA, if you get into the right program and the right conference, there is a lot of opportunity and positives that come with it, along with the great experiences of working with players. As a young kid just out of college, it was a good fit."

Stimmel fulfilled his goal of building Grove City into an MCLA power. He led the Wolverines to the national quarterfinals where they were a goal away from making the final four, finishing as the No. 5 team in the country. In both his seasons at Grove City, Stimmel was named the conference coach of the year.

When he told his team that he was moving to Yale, where he will be the goalie coach, there was nothing but heartfelt congratulations.

"They knew that Grove City was not going to be a place where I was going to be for the rest of my life," Stimmel said. "They knew it would be a few short years there. The guys were always supportive of me pursuing my dreams, as well. This past season, we talked about pursuing our goals together. The really cool thing about the culture is that we were supporting each other in that."

Now Stimmel, a Pittsburgh native, and his wife are off on their grand adventure in New Haven. He is excited to be working with Division I athletes again and is heartened that the Yale program has many of the same qualities that were evident during his stay at Grove City.

"The thing I love about this place is not only the staff, but the culture of the program," he said. "The camaraderie of the guys and how they care about each other is special. Just buying into that attitude has made them successful over the past couple of years."

Not every coach in the MCLA is looking to make it a profession. Most of them have full-time jobs and coach in their spare time because they love the game and want to give back to the sport that was so important in their lives. They certainly aren't getting rich off it. But Stimmel, and others before him, have found that coaching in the MCLA is not the end of the line.

Stimmel's pedigree as a Division I player, and the connections he made through it, certainly were instrumental in his new position at Yale. That doesn't take away from the fact that the MCLA is gaining traction as a viable option for young coaches. That's good for the MCLA, good for the players and good for the game.

"There are multiple ways a coach can get where he wants to go," Stimmel said. "It doesn't necessarily have to be the recipe that everyone else has used. There are a lot of guys who have gone in different directions and ended up where they wanted to be. At the end of the day, coaching experience is coaching experience. As long as you are learning and you're able to teach the game well, you are going to have a great opportunity to accomplish what you want to in coaching. I don't think that matters whether you are starting in the MCLA or at the Division I level."