Colgate Coaching Trio Starting Lucky 13th Seasons

Colgate Coaching Trio Starting Lucky 13th Seasons
Baker, Pennington, Young All Debuted with Raiders in Summer 2006

Colgate head coaches Ryan Baker, Bobby Pennington and Heather Young are entering their 13th years at Colgate. Pennington is head coach for the men’s and women’s tennis programs, Young is head coach for Colgate women’s lacrosse and Baker oversees women’s volleyball.

They arrived at Colgate in the summer of 2006 as single coaches sampling their first tastes of life in the Village of Hamilton. Now all three are married with a combined total of eight children – and two more on the way.

The rosters stack up like this: Ryan and Kristin Baker, with children Brody and Landon; Bobby and Jenny Pennington, with children Mia and Clifford; and Heather and Chris Young, with children Ela, Mia, Charli and AJ. Both the Bakers and Penningtons are expecting.

Here’s a quick look at the past, present and future of these three Colgate treasures.

What do you remember about your first day, first week or first month at Colgate?

Bobby Pennington (Head Tennis Coach): “I came in July 2006, so right about 12 years ago now. I remember trying to get acclimated to everything and trying to get everything figured out on the fly. In a very short period of time, I had to hire an assistant coach and make the schedule for both teams. I had a

lot on my plate in the first two months because I was pretty much starting from scratch. I remember trying to get acclimated, trying to find my way around, meet people, set the schedule and hire an assistant. That was my primary thing in the first two months before the student-athletes got back.”

Ryan Baker (Head Women’s Volleyball Coach): “It was a total whirlwind. I was hired in July and the season started in August. I was the assistant at Colgate and they did a national search and I was very fortunate that they hired me. They took a huge risk on me so I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and completely excited. I was 24 and might have been the youngest Division I coach at the time. I was only an assistant here for nine months before they hired me. I had a group of players at the time who really rallied behind me and were so bought in. It was amazing.”

Heather Young (Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach): “I remember how welcomed I was on my first day, first month and into my first year at Colgate. There was definitely nervous excitement during this time, but also SO much to do! I remember being put at ease when talking with other colleagues and soon-to-be mentors as I went through my first 30-day meeting checklist.

“I was hired in August and could not move into my house until October. I remember some very early mornings (4 a.m.) commuting from my mom’s house to be here for 6 a.m. practice. Did I mention I am not a morning person?”

What’s the secret to selling Colgate to recruits or to new assistant coaches?
Baker: “Once they get here they fall in love. It is one of the best communities in America. There is such a family feel. Anyone who visits Colgate – we are in their top three because they just feel something different. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world with Division I sports and probably top-five education. There aren’t many schools in the country that can match what we have here.”

Young: “There are no secrets in selling Colgate; it does it all on its own. When recruits and families step on campus, they can sense and feel the intimate bond we all have with each other. One walks away and has this beautiful campus on their mind for weeks to come.”

Pennington: “I try to sell the fact that it is such a unique place and there is nowhere really like it as far as it is Division I, but it does have a small school feel to it. Great academics, but what I try and sell is high level Patriot League tennis. The Patriot League in tennis has improved a ton since I’ve been here. It has gotten way deeper; the level has gone way higher. So they get a chance to play Division I tennis, which is a dream for a lot of kids, and they get a great education. It is a great mix.

“I have had two assistants who have been with me for a long time. Breanna Bachini is going into her fourth year. I had an assistant who I had for over three years, Courtney Vernon, who is now the head coach at Florida Gulf Coast. This is a great stepping stone job for them either to become a bigger time assistant or a head coach because they are exposed to all areas. They get the chance to work with both the men’s and women’s teams and just be exposed to all different areas of the program from compliance to recruiting to on-court coaching. They get polished in a lot of different areas.”

What is the one thing no one ever realizes about Colgate until they get here?
Young: “The deep bonds you will make – with your coaches, administrators, professors, classmates, teammates, alumni, career services advisors, peers, etc. And for the three of us, our spouses and children.

“One can tell you about it, but until you get here you don’t realize the depth of so many who bleed maroon. It is truly special.”

Pennington: “It’s the sense of community where everybody is very open and friendly. We’re Division I, but it feels smaller and people form closer, more intimate relationships because of that.”

Baker: “You can feel the passion for Colgate once you’re here. Everybody speaks with such excitement about this place. When you talk to someone on the phone, you can tell someone about it, but once you are here you can actually feel it. I hear people say at times that they feel like they are being taken care of because everyone is invested in your future emotionally, mentally, academically and athletically.  Everyone cares here and you have to feel that.”

What are your thoughts on entering your 13th year at Colgate?
Baker: “Wow! I have been here a long time. I am very lucky. It is very rare in Division I athletics to see people stay for a long time. People always ask if I am going to move and I always tell them I love it here. To me, this is our home. I grew up 45 minutes from here in New Hartford, so having my parents still be able to come to my games, my sister, my aunts, and now my wife working at Hamilton College and us raising our two young boys and another baby on the way – we have it made and we love it here.

“I am so fortunate to work at a place that I love as much as I do. We have done and can continue to do amazing things with our program. We have been on the national scene and it is a place where we continually make a huge name at a school that is considered very tiny.”

Pennington: “I’m definitely excited. I’m trying to fine-tune the program in every way. I was really proud last year because our men had their best season since 1998. They set the school record for wins at 15 and finished in the top three in the Patriot League. It was an accomplishment. I am really looking forward to a solid women’s season this year as well. We are very young but we could be much better. I am looking forward to that with both teams.

“I owe a lot of my success and longevity at Colgate to my wife, Jenny. She has helped make me a better coach and person.”

Young: “I am excited to be able to enter my 13th year at a place that holds the No. 13 near and dear to its heart. The No. 13 is a lucky number not only to Colgate and the women’s lacrosse team, but to Chris and me. Our youngest Raider was born on the 13th!”

Which of you three will end up with the most children?
Pennington: “Well, Heather is in the lead with four, and Ryan and I will be tied with three. I don’t know.  I like even numbers so it could be a tie with Heather.”

Baker: “Definitely Bobby.”

Young: “We have double the numbers now, but I know they are both catching up quick!”

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