Nikki Kieffer is Utica College’s new assistant women’s field hockey coach. Although it can be tough for a former Pioneer to coach a year after their playing career, Kieffer found a way to make the adjustment.
She was welcomed by her former teammates she played side by side throughout her college career. Kieffer graduated in May 2015 and now assists head coach Sarah Elleman. She graduated from UC with a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations – Sports Communication and also minored in Management.
Kieffer has been helping out with everything, including practices, going to home and away games, scouting and recruiting players, and being in the office every day.
The transition from player to coach is difficult for any former player after playing the game for four years. But Kieffer has been able to adjust since the season began.
“Sometimes it’s hard to remember I have to separate my personal life from my coaching life,” Kieffer said. “But other than that nothing has changed with my relationships with these girls.”
The hardest task for Kieffer going into the season was gaining the respect as a coach, especially when she played with a few of the girls a year ago.
“I already gained respect from most of this team being that I was in a leadership role with them before as a senior or upperclassmen,” Kieffer said. “The nice part about this team is that they are very goal driven; there are no egos, which creates a better atmosphere to coach in.”
Kieffer’s responsibilities have changed from a year ago, but her role as a leader has not changed one bit.
“The only things that are different now are that I have to deal with the other side of college field hockey,” Kieffer said. “What I mean by that is, that all the things that make a practice day or game day go smoothly I now take care of.”
Taking control of creating practice plans, the starting lineups, and doing food orders for away games are just some of her new responsibilities.
When Kieffer applied for the job she felt the biggest obstacle was how the seniors responded to her now being a coach. Senior Tori Couture and the rest of the upperclassmen were hesitant at first, but the team respects her knowledge of the game and it was easy to listen to her and help her transition from teammate to coach.
“We were hesitant about having her as a coach because we weren’t sure if we would be able to separate our friendship with her new position,” Couture said. “It has been good for us though because she has been in similar situations and she is very knowledgeable of the game. We truly respect her and she has done a great job coaching.”
UC is grateful to have Kieffer for the field hockey team. She showed hard working skills on and off the field when she was playing. She started 17 out of 18 of their games and she finished 10th in the nation in assists her senior season. She was a part of three Empire 8 Field Hockey Championships as well as two Sweet 16 trips.
Her role on the team may have changed, but her role as a leader is something she’s been able to nurture in her new role on the sidelines.
“No matter what your position is, being a leader is the same,” Kieffer said. “Being a good leader as a player is what qualifies you as a good leader as a coach.”