Coaches face pressure to succeed on, off field

Head baseball coach Mike Keehn gives his signal during a game this season.

Winning is part of every college sports team, but dealing with the pressure of a tradition of success can take a toll on anyone.

At UNA, the standard is high with the amount of success the sports programs for the UNA baseball team have and now a thriving power in the UNA women’s soccer team. The pressure to succeed has been put on both of these programs the last couple of seasons, and winning may not be the thing that concerns most coaches.

“The pressure is what you put on yourself,” said UNA baseball coach Mike Keehn. “Obviously, here at UNA, expectations are always high for all sports to win championships, but I think what’s also important is making sure the players are doing the right thing on and off the field. That’s probably the more stressing thing than any.”

The UNA soccer team came into this past season with huge expectations after the amount of success from the previous seasons. The Lions were able to rise to the occasion and win the Gulf South Conference and advance to their first NCAA Tournament appearance. For UNA soccer coach Graham Winkworth, the pressure is off the field.

“The biggest pressure for me is the pressure I put myself under,” Winkworth said. “ I’m a terrible loser, and I put high expectations on the soccer program and on myself more than anyone else could possibly put on me. It’s not just about wins and losses, it’s about bringing in quality student athletes and people for the program.”

The UNA baseball team has risen to expectations so far this season after clinching the weekend series over No.1 West Florida to move to (18-6, 4-2) on the season. The Lions were projected to finish second in the conference, but Keehn said he worries about the little things more than anything else at times.

“There are a lot of things baseball coaches have to endure,” he said. “You’re responsible for so many other things like fundraisers, practice and field preparations. The weather for me is stressful because you have to make a decision on to bring the opposing team and call the umpires.”

Pressure can take control for anyone, but both Winkworth and Keehn have been able to put it aside and be successful on the field.

“It’s not so much pressure from the outside as it is from within, but the hardest thing for me is balancing my home life with my professional life,” Winkworth said. “It takes its toll sometimes, but I love what I do.”