In the middle of a year where athletics have been effectively postponed, Wittenberg field hockey will be led by a new head coach, Bronwen Gainsford. Formerly a player for Catawba College and Wake Forest University, and later coach for Belmont Abbey College, James Madison University and Smith College, Gainsford brings her coaching expertise to Wittenberg as she prepares the team for future seasons when competitions are able to resume.
Six days prior to Wittenberg University shutting down in March, former athletic director Gary Williams appointed Gainsford as the head coach for the 2020 season. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and fall athletics were cancelled for the 2020-2021 academic year, Gainsford’s focus with the team shifted from preparing them for wins to increasing the team’s culture and technical skills.
“The team has a really good energy even now when we can’t have competitions,” Gainsford said. “Wittenberg has a really rich history of its field hockey team going to post-season, and so we want to take the opportunities this year presents in allowing us to develop our skill-work and fundamentals so that we can get further through post-season in the future. My long-term goal is to have Wittenberg be seen as one of the top schools in the conference, and I believe that being able to take the time and develop our team’s skills and culture will allow up to leap ahead in realizing that goal.”
Gainsford’s experiences playing and coaching at multiple schools have shaped her coaching style. While she originally played as a defender in the field, her sophomore year at Catawba required someone to step into the role of goalkeeper which she fulfilled and found success in. When Catawba cut their field hockey program, Gainsford adapted by transferring to Wake Forest and growing under the tactical leadership she played under there.
“I had a really great experience at both locations I attended because at Catawba, I was given the opportunity and instruction to become a really great goalkeeper, and at Wake Forest I was instructed by a really fantastic coach who gave me the strategic insight into the game,” Gainsford said.
Following Gainsford’s time at Wake Forest, she went on to receive her M.S. in Exercise and Sports Studies and served as an assistant coach at Smith College. Following her graduation from Smith, she went on to serve as an assistant coach at James Madison, and later served as the head coach for Belmont Abbey.
“I hope to take the experiences and lessons I’ve learned as both an athlete and a coach and give the team the best coach they can get,” Gainsford said. “We’re going to have to push through adversity to achieve our goals regardless of whether it’s on the field or in the real world, and I want to make sure there’s an opportunity to learn how to overcome those adversities through the preparation and pride in the work that we do on this team.”