Geneseo tennis team coach since fall 2015 Jason Stephens resigned in November due to reasons related to his commute to the college, according to the athletic department. Players of the tennis team spoke to his behavior during his time at Geneseo to be “unprofessional,” and attribute this to his departure from the college.
Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation Mike Mooney is assuming the position of coach for the women’s tennis team during their spring season and recently traveled with them to South Carolina for three matches.
“[Stephens] decided to resign at the end of November,” Mooney said. “His reasoning is that it is difficult to drive down here and back. It isn’t as big of a deal if you are a full-time coach, but the women’s tennis team coaching job is part time.”
According to Mooney, the tennis team has two seasons, a fall and spring season, that lasts a total of 19 weeks.
“Within this local geographic area, it is difficult to find a part-time coach,” Mooney said. “I have been playing coach because I don’t want the women’s team to have nobody. I just ask them to compete; I say to them ‘that’s all I’m asking you is to fight, battle and do the best you can.’ They are really great about it.”
The team played three matches thus far during their spring season at Hilton Head in South Carolina during spring break.
Biology major and co-captain of the tennis team Nina Lurie said that former coach Stephens was not always the most professional.
“[Stephens] did a lot of things that a coach shouldn’t do,” Lurie said. “Personally, I never felt unsafe or harassed but I can see why other players would feel that way. He had his flaws and was definitely not the most professional.”
As co-captain, Lurie said that girls on the team had gone to her and expressed concern about Stephen’s behavior.
“Other girls had come to me and the other captain about [Stephens],” Lurie said. “This year was certainly the worst his behavior has been. Our team before was solid … I think that he didn’t know how to deal with the addition of so many younger girls to the team, and the loss of so many key players.”
According to women’s tennis SUNYAC statistics, Geneseo had won the SUNYAC championship for seven consecutive years from 2011-2017. Three of these championship wins occurred while Stephens was coach. Before him, Jim Chen coached the team through four titles.
“I think that with so many new, young players we couldn’t ensure we would win the championship,” Lurie said. “Maybe this was why he acted out badly and didn’t handle the situation right.”
Economics major sophomore and tennis team member Catherine Gluchowski corroborated that former coach Stephens’s behavior affected women on the team.
“Even though I never felt uncomfortable there were definitely times that I knew stuff was going on that coaches shouldn’t be doing or saying,” Gluchowski said. “I was more concerned with the fact that I knew some of the first years didn’t feel very comfortable.”
Both Gluchowski and Lurie declined to comment about the specifics of Stephen’s behavior.
“I tell students if they have a problem with a coach, first try to meet with the coach,” Mooney said. “If the athlete doesn’t feel their concern is being fairly looked at, or there are issues, then I tell students to talk to me. I am not going to make excuses for coaches, but I want to be able to hear what the issues are. The largest concerns are health and safety issues.”
Specific Title IX sexual harassment issues and mental health issues that may arise for athletes follow more explicit protocol handled by the athletic department, according to Mooney.
“Since we don’t have a legitimate tennis pro, I don’t think that the season will be as good as we would have hoped,” Lurie said. “But I still think that we can do well considering we have the same girls playing for the team.”
According to Mooney, the college is in the process of finding a permanent replacement for the women’s tennis team.
“I would like a more positive coach when one is hired, in the same way Mooney is with us right now,” political science major and tennis team member freshman Sophia Alkhouri Stuart said. “I really appreciate that he stepped up and decided to coach for us because he took time out of his busy schedule and otherwise we wouldn’t have a season.”
Mathematics and economic double major and tennis team member sophomore Dana Sorrentino said that she would like to see specific qualities in the new coach.
“We definitely want somebody who is competitive and is looking out for our best interests,” Sorrentino said. “We want a better atmosphere with somebody who takes consideration of the people who really want to be there and play hard.”
Sorrentino and Alkhouri Stuart also declined to comment about the specifics of Stephens’ behavior during his time as coach.