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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Athletes return to campus for fifth year


After graduating in last spring, two student-athletes returned to Grinnell this fall to spend their fifth year on campus. Both alumnae now work at the College to continue what they had left off as students at Grinnell.

Jordan Young ’14 played goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team for four years and Sarah Burnell ’14 ran for the women’s track and field and cross country teams.

Young now works as an assistant coach for the soccer team while pursuing a master’s degree in biology at University of Northern Iowa. Although she has to manage a busy schedule, Young experienced a smooth transition to becoming an assistant coach.

Jordan Young ’14 works as an assistant coach for the women’s soccer team . Photo contributed.
Jordan Young ’14 works as an assistant coach for the women’s soccer team .
Photo contributed.

“The school/work balance has been great. With my schedule at [University of Northern Iowa], I am able to come down for at least one practice a week and make all of our games,” Young said. “The transition from student to staff has been very smooth for me. What surprised me the most is how easy it was to switch gears and go from being a member of the team and a captain to being the assistant coach.”

For Burnell, who works as coordinator of commencement and conferences and assistant coach for the cross country and track and field teams, the transition was harder.

“My hardest challenge is making that transition between how to balance this change in role while everything else about me is basically the same,” Burnell said.

Although Burnell and Young had to readjust their schedules and evaluate previous work relationships, they enjoy their positions on campus.

“It never feels like work,” Young said. “Driving back and forth to Grinnell from Cedar Falls is tough when I have to do it in the same day, but the time I get to spend coaching makes it worth it.”

Burnell added, “It’s social time. It’s time for me to hang out and go on runs and talk about silly things. I love that I’m still here at Grinnell and able to partake in that and the fact that they let me tag along and serve as a reference [for athletes] if they have questions or concerns, I try to help the best I can.”

There are also perks of being alumnae faculty members. A major advantage is that their previous time in Grinnell helps them establish personal relationships with their co-workers and athletes.

“I think knowing all of the players on the team, either through playing with them or helping recruit them, has made the experience that much better,” Young said. “A critical part of coaching is knowing who your players are as people.”

Viewing and treating the students as people before athletes also helped Burnell gain a better understanding of her job.

“I don’t ask [the student workers] to do anything I wouldn’t do,” Burnell said. “I see it more as teamwork, not as if I’m someone’s boss. We’re all working towards the same goal.”

Sarah Burnell ’14 works  for the Conference Operations and Events. Photo by Shadman Asif.
Sarah Burnell ’14 works for the Conference Operations and Events.
Photo by Shadman Asif.

Looking back at the decision to take a position at Grinnell, Burnell confessed that she had a difficult time choosing Grinnell as her next step after the graduation. The decision to stay was hard for her particularly because she spent the majority of her childhood in Grinnell.

“I was a little nervous,” Burnell said. “But, of all the options that I had available to be at the time, this was by far the best and the community both in the College and the town are so great and I love spending my time here doing something I enjoy instead of trying to ‘fight the world’ somewhere else.”

Young also believed that taking the offer at Grinnell as an assistant soccer coach was an excellent decision.

“Being a part of [the soccer team] during my four years at Grinnell helped make my experience what it was,” Young said. “Coaching provided an opportunity to stay involved with the program and to do everything I can to help the women on the team get that incredible experience.”

Reflecting on the favorable year that she has had so far with her new job, Burnell said that she had a change in perspective toward job seeking.

“I’m starting to realize that people ‘fall into their jobs,’” Burnell said. “They never plan to be at that position or that job or company, but it just kind of happens to you. So I’m just taking a step now. Hopefully this one step will lead me to another step and so on.”

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