Graduate Assistant Spotlight
It takes teamwork to be successful. And the North Park Vikings continue to make strides in being team players.
With the implementation of the graduate assistant (GA) program in 2009, North Park’s athletic department is seeking to improve its competitive position in the nationally recognized College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin. The GA program has already produced three college coaches: Sam Romanoski, who went on to become the head cross country coach at Lake Forest College, Todd Winter, the North Park football offensive coordinator, and most notably Allison Koubsky C’2007, who became the head women’s rowing coach after succeeding founding coach Tim Grant.
“Being a graduate assistant at North Park University prepared me for the position as a head coach by expanding my coaching pedagogy. Through this I learned coaching strategies and techniques that best fit my current athletes,” Koubsky says. “Every year a coach has a different roster, and with that come different personalities that make the team chemistry change. Through the GA position I learned how to adapt within different situations, push the rowers to their limits, and create a successful team environment.”
As the most-decorated athlete the rowing program has ever seen—having won over 22 medals, including three from the Dad Vail National Regatta—Koubsky began coaching as an assistant after graduating in 2007 and was named the graduate assistant in 2009.
“Starting the GA position under my previous coach Tim Grant was truly a pleasure. Coach Grant and I had a successful rowing past together here at North Park, and having the chance to not only row for him but to coach under him was an extraordinary opportunity,” she says. “Coach Grant put me in charge of the entire novice program and recruiting. Being a GA for recruiting was one of my top priorities, and since rowing isn’t extremely popular in the Midwest, we had to be creative in our efforts. Within these expectations Coach Grant placed a lot of trust in me.”
Since it was first introduced, the objectives of the graduate assistant program have been to demonstrate the need to make a stronger personnel commitment to athletic recruitment over a five-year plan, to sustain growth in enrollment, and to provide appropriate infrastructure.
“Our vision was to increase our competitiveness in athletics by adding quality and numbers to our squads. The method we chose was to implement the graduate assistant program. This program provides an avenue for young coaches to acquire an advanced degree and practical experience. We are now two and a half years into the five year plan and the results are very encouraging,” said Dr. Jack Surridge, Director of Athletics. “We are on pace to increase the total number of athletes at North Park by 150 in 2013.”
In addition to moving Koubsky and Romanoski on to head coaching positions after their graduate assistant work, the program also proved to be successful for Todd Winter, current assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for the football team. Since Winter has taken over the position, the Viking football team has seen solid improvement, including a historic 70-7 victory over McMurray College last season, where the team scored the most points in a single game since the 1968 season and accumulated 532 yards of total offense, second most in North Park history.
“(These) position(s) (have) made an enormous impact on the athletic department as a whole. Having a GA coach on an athletic team is another tool for our current athletes so they can become more successful on and off the playing field,” Koubsky said. “The GA position helped me expand my coaching philosophy in ways I never anticipated.”
Kevin Shepke has served as the University's sports information director since 2006.