Jayhawk Insider: New Coaches, Same Goals
By: Jordan Cronan
LAWRENCE, Kan. — With a new season comes new changes: new student-athletes, new lineups, and for Kansas rowing, three new assistant coaches. This past summer, head coach Carrie Cook-Callen made her first big decision as head coach, or rather three, when hiring Charley Sullivan, Alyssa Armstrong and Madison Hovis.
Sullivan comes to Kansas after spending more than 30 years at the likes of Michigan, Eastern Michigan and UC Santa Barbara. Having experience mentoring 12 national team athletes, six World Cup competitors and four Olympians, Sullivan brings his background from coaching elite athletes to the student-athletes of Kansas.
“Charley was a position that really filled a need in the development of our training program,” head coach Cook-Callen said. “He is able to commit the time to stay on top of the information to give back to the rowers and to dissect their training pieces.”
With his many years of experience, Sullivan has been able to bring the Jayhawks closer to their full potential this fall through the technical feedback given on and off the water that has resulted in faster times heading into the spring season.
“He’s helped make it fun again to be fast and really helped us have some of those break through moments,” Cook-Callen said. “He brings in an excitement and level of difficulty to the practices that is making us better both as humans and as rowers.”
Going into the spring, Cook-Callen sees Sullivan working with her and the top athletes and continuing to push the Jayhawks to their full potential.
With assistant coaches Armstrong and Hovis, Cook-Callen was very familiar with what they could bring to the team as she had coached Armstrong during her time at Iowa and Hovis here at Kansas.
“I had a true sense of their character and competitiveness, how they had been taught and how they were going to be as teachers and coaches of the sport,” Cook-Callen said.
Former Old Dominion assistant coach, Armstrong’s impact has already been felt, especially for the first-year student-athletes. Having being tasked with leading the recruit group, Armstrong was responsible for not only developing first-time rowers, but also to the level of Division I student-athletes.
Armstrong helped lead the Novice Eight to first-place finishes at the Jayhawk Jamboree and Tulsa Fall Invitational.
“We’ve seen some really positive things come out of that group and realize they will have an impact on speed in the spring,” Cook-Callen said. “Part of that is having the product of great athletes to work with and then Alyssa being a good teacher and developing them.”
Come spring, Cook-Callen foresees Armstrong working with the fours group and bringing that group up to occasionally run with the first and second eights in practice.
Cook-Callen’s third new hire, Madison Hovis, rowed for Kansas from 2013-17 and was with the Jayhawks last season as a volunteer assistant coach. Having the experience of rowing for KU and working alongside the team last year, Hovis brings a young and familiar energy to the team.
“I can see the impact that she is having in that developmental group,” Cook-Callen said. “Student-athletes are coming to her, walking through their practice plan, walking through how to become a better coxswain or rower and how they can pull better on their erg pieces.”
Hovis has had the opportunity for a lot of one-on-one coaching and found a passion for the young rowers to grow and be able to compete alongside the veteran student-athletes.
“All three coaches have been greatly involved in us making this season start strong,” Cook-Callen said. “They have brought really great energy and passion to what they’re doing here at Kansas.”
The fall allowed the coaching staff to establish their rhythm, pull their ideas together and set a baseline for what is to come in the spring. A new coaching staff and a transitioning program doesn’t change the final goal of rowing technically better, rowing faster and being the program Kansas can be.
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