“Their parents are putting trust in me to keep their kids safe,” says Rachel. “I know that golf and academics are what they're here for, but I feel like my role as a coach is so much more. I have an open door policy. They can come in and talk to me about anything whenever they want, and that's something that I wish I had in college.”
The Ontario native, who played golf for East Tennessee State University before spending four years as assistant coach at the ULM Warhawks’ Sun Belt Conference rivals Arkansas State, is coming up to her first anniversary in the job. She looks back at the targets she set herself and her players and is generally satisfied with the outcomes, although she says she doesn’t “feel like our finishes on the leaderboard were a good indication of how we were doing as a team”. In nine tournaments before the Sun Belt Conference Championship, ULM recorded one second place team finish, one third and two fourth places.
Among the targets, which the players set themselves, were to beat the ULM women’s golf single round scoring record and beat the tournament scoring record. “We've come within two shots of both of them,” says the coach. “We're knocking on the door of breaking some really big program records.”
The role of Head Coach in a smaller college golf program is multifaceted. “A lot of things fall on the Head Coach," Rachel explains. "For example, organising fundraisers and playing the role of director of ops, which involves booking all of your team's travel and hotels, meals, restaurants, itineraries. A football coach or basketball coach has a support staff who are able to help them with that, which means their sole focus is on coaching their sport. But with a small program you wear all of the hats, which is a lot of fun at times because I get to have involvement in so many aspects of my players and their lives.
“When you're so involved, you create connections that I don't think a football coach with 100 players would be able to create. I've got eight players and we spend a lot of time together in a lot of different areas, so being able to connect with them is definitely a positive of taking on all those roles. But it is a lot for a coach and I'm very fortunate to have an assistant to be able to help me with some of that."
"Clippd gives me a really great insight, especially with the trend lines and being able to see the ebbs and flows of rounds"
Rachel and her players have been using Clippd since the turn of the year. “I definitely think it's helped significantly as a coach,” she says. “Stats analysis takes up a lot of time. What I really like about Clippd is how visual and how easy but in-depth it is. We base all of our practice plans on statistics. As a coach, it's cut down practice planning times significantly just because of how visual it is and how easy it is to access the data. I have two girls who want to play professionally right now so being able to see where they need to be to be successful has been awesome.”
Rachel admits she is fortunate to have a roster of players who understand the importance of data collection. “We create little stats sheets that they bring out on the course with them. They mark down all the numbers that they need and keep it in their cart. Stats are due in the next day by noon so that I can take a look at them and analyse the week's practice.”
She points to being able to see players’ strengths and weaknesses at certain distances as one of her favourite features within Clippd. “That then feeds into our course management when we're playing at events,” she explains. “Being able to play courses to our strong suits."
Were there situations in her first season at ULM where she made a team selection based on what Clippd was telling her? “Definitely,” she replies. “Numbers don't lie. I trust what the Clippd data and insights are telling me. I think it's a more detailed version of what we see [as coaches]. Obviously, I can't watch every single shot of every single player. There's only one of me, and sometimes they're five miles apart on the golf course. But Clippd gives me a really great insight, especially with the trend lines and being able to see the ebbs and flows of their rounds. Maybe someone played like trash on the first three holes because they didn't eat breakfast that morning. It's kind of just figuring out what those trend lines mean, whether they're golf-related or it's an external factor.”
Being “able to see everything as a whole” is important to a coach who describes her approach as “very holistic”. It’s taken a year to settle things down after a few years of turbulence within the program. “Maybe past coaches have reacted differently to certain situations," she smiles. "But now that the players know how I operate as a coach and what my expectations are, I think next year it's just going to skyrocket.”