Two years ago when Dave Williams left York High School in Elmhurst, after 35 years of teaching and coaching, it was with the idea of taking over as the head bowling coach at Elmhurst College.
“[It] was an opportunity for me to coach college,” Williams said. “I had not done that before and I wanted to try.”
However, things did not play out quite as Williams had hoped.
“I had no clue through any of the interviews that I had with [athletic director] Paul [Krohn] that we weren’t talking head coach,” Williams said. “The way [Krohn] was talking, I assumed I was the head coach. And that is not the case.”
According to the athletic website, the head bowling coach is listed as Joel Southern while Williams and Tom Babyar are registered as assistant coaches. Southern, who is also the head baseball coach, has held the title of head bowling coach for six years.
Since its beginning in 2005, the bowling program has always been tied to the baseball program.
“Bowling came into here attached to baseball,” Krohn said. “[The baseball coach] was the loan person besides [the] softball [coach] that simultaneously did not have an open season [and] was here on campus that it could be tagged onto. I wasn’t necessarily in agreement with that but that was the design of it and how it got approved when it got entered in.”
Southern’s predecessor, former baseball coach Clark Jones, was the first to have the responsibilities of head bowling coach added to his duties.
“The head coach, by title, is the administrator of the program,” said Krohn. “And our head coach of the bowling program as of two years ago and actually even beyond that, was somebody hired to do the tactical coaching and the instruction that were bowling experts. Dave Williams is our current head bowling coach, per say. In title, perhaps it is misleading to say that [Southern] is head coach. [Williams] is head coach. [Southern] is the administrator.”
As head coach “administrator,” Southern’s duties consist of scheduling, arranging travel, and recruitment while Williams and Baybar handle the “day-to-day” operations.
Although Williams was at first taken aback after learning he was not considered the head coach two weeks before the start of the season, he had little complaints his first year because he was still “learning the ropes.” Southern took the team to all their meets up until the start of baseball season.
The issues began to arise once Southern stopped attending matches. Williams noted that Southern did not attend any match during the 2011-2012 bowling season.
Consequently, the titles of “head” and “assistant” coach have created much confusion, and in return, some “awkward” situations.
“When we go to these meets and we go to coaches meetings they always say, ‘Is Joel Southern here from Elmhurst?’ And we say, ‘No, we are.’ And they say, ‘Oh, well can you give this to your head coach.’ We say, ‘Ok’,” Williams said. “It is just awkward stuff.”
Varying perceptions exist due to Southern’s absences at meets and practices.
“I have had maybe two interactions with Southern throughout an entire academic year,” freshman Halie Maxwell said. “There is much tension and frustration within the team concerning this problem.”
Meyers claimed that Southern has admitted to players that he knows little about the sport of bowling.
“I have issues with that,” Meyer said. “I think that if you have the title and you get paid to be the head coach that you should know something about the sport.”
Southern did not deny the claims.
“That is true,” he said in response to admitting to not knowing much about the sport of bowling to players. “I’ve learned a lot about it over the years, but not enough to be comfortable coaching the technical aspects. I’m smart enough to know that we need to have assistant coaches who are very good at teaching those technical aspects, and we have that.”
On the other hand, veteran bowlers like seniors Amanda Warwick and Ann Bialk feel that the “younger” player’s portrayal of Southern is unfair.
“The girls, other than myself and [Bialk], were not around during the process of finding a new coach,” said Warwick. “They are unaware of the issues we faced during my first two seasons here. In such a case, I feel their view is a bit jaded about Coach Southern. Coach Southern has always gone above and beyond for anything I have ever asked of him. He has taken a step back from how involved he used to be when attending tournaments, but that is because he has responsible individuals who can operate without him. In the past, that was not always the case.”
“[Southern] was hired on to start our program and did an incredible job doing so,” she said. “He has us bowling in some of the biggest tournaments in this country against the highest-ranking teams.”
Warwick did comment on a possible solution to the frustration in relation to the titles.
“I feel that Coach Southern, if not labeled head coach should be named bowling administrator as someone who works with the athletic administration within the office and allow Coach Williams to be named head coach with Coach Babyar as assistant coach,” she said.
This clarification, according to Krohn, was something that should have been made clear on the athletic website.
“It shouldn’t read that way,” he said. “I have had the same conversation with Kevin Juday relative to our website that head coach should be Dave Williams and administrator should be Joel Southern.”
Krohn mentioned that Southern is not compensated as a typical head coach in relation to his bowling assignment, but it instead is treated as a secondary assignment.
Williams stressed that the issues revolving around the coaching title is immaterial compared to the list of things he hopes to accomplish with the bowling program.
“I own the smoothie factor in town and kids from the college walk in. I tell them that I coach over there and they say, ‘Oh, yeah? What?’ And I go, ‘Girls bowling.’ [They respond], ‘We have a bowling team?’ That is my first priority, to get rid of that. To make it known that there is a bowling team,” he said.