Sept. 11, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Entering his second season at the helm of the University of Louisville rowing program, head coach Derek Copeland had an idea that would not only impact the leadership of his team, but one that would alter the captain's role for the Cardinals.
Rather than going the customary direction by identifying multiple captains for the 2013-14 season, the coach believed that assigning only one captain could be very beneficial to the team -- assuming that lone captain was the right person for the job. With fall training underway, Copeland is confident he found that person in senior captain Amy Van Syoc.
"I made the decision to go with one captain because one of the weaknesses of the multiple captains structure is that the younger athlete may not have a good role model for what it means to be a perfect captain," explained Copeland. "With Amy, I thought we had a chance to get it right so that all of the younger rowers could have a good standard for a captain and for their own growth as leaders."
A native of Milford, Ohio, in the southwest corner of the Buckeye State near Cincinnati, Van Syoc was selected as a team captain for the third straight season, but unlike the first two years, 2013-14 will mark the first time she has assumed the role solo after serving alongside two other captains previously. As a key member of the Cardinals' varsity eight crew with extensive experience sharing the leadership role, Van Syoc is embracing the new structure and accountability within the program and what it means for her role as captain.
"As a communications major, I've always been willing to speak up and talk to the team as one of the captains. During the past two years, I've also done a lot of housekeeping type of jobs sending emails to the team, making sure everyone knows when to report certain places or what uniforms to wear," Van Syoc said. "This year we're changing that role because we have a lot of other awesome leaders on this team. We will delegate many of those responsibilities and duties to several other team members and that will allow me to grow my relationship within the team and become more of an approachable person that they can talk to when they're having troubles or if they're having success in life and they want to share that."
Copeland sees the change in structure as a win-win for both Van Syoc and for every rower on the Louisville roster.
"It allows us to actually incorporate more responsibility throughout the program with more of our athletes. Amy can delegate more tasks so that she's not actually doing all of the random things because she's not a team mom," Copeland said. "She's much more akin to an assistant coach when she has the podium. I'm confident that it will be a good fit for our team and will help us gain speed on the water."
Gaining speed on the water and finding success on race day are highly important to Copeland as well as every member of the Louisville rowing program. As one of 10 seniors on this year's roster, Van Syoc has first-hand knowledge of the progress of the program over recent years and she expects that upward trend to continue in her final season.
"One thing that I've always been taught is that I should leave something better than how I found it and that was my goal when came in as a freshman. I told myself then that when I leave here as a senior, I want this program to be better than it was when I came in," said Van Syoc, a two-time CRCA Scholar-Athlete selection for her work in the classroom. "I definitely think that this year, I have set myself up to do that because of a fantastic team around me."
After spending much of the 2012-13 season ranked among the nation's top 20 teams and earning a runner-up finish in the Big East Championship, the Cardinals narrowly missed on the program's first berth at the NCAA Championship. This year's team returns a wealth of experience and talent from last season while also adding an impressive class of newcomers. That mix of experienced and youthful talent has Van Syoc aiming high with her expectations for what Louisville can achieve on the water in 2014.
"My goal for this team this year is for us to break into the top 12 in the country and I think that's definitely attainable," Van Syoc said. "We've put ourselves in a position to have a really good opportunity to win the American Athletic Conference and compete at a high level in the NCAA Championship."