Deptford Twp. – There's an acclimation period, any coach can tell you. The time when they come into an organization at any level where they begin to feel around, guiding through the nuances of the new position. There's a culture to be learned, player habits deconstructed and retooled and a bond to be forged. And if it works, the coach melds with the history of the organization, becoming a seamless fingerprint to its structure. But what of the coach who builds from the ground up; from the literal birth of a team?
That's the task of Anthony "Tony" Carpenter, the first coach of the as-of-yet unformed women's volleyball team at Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC). The New York native's amiable goal for the team is both grand and minimal, conjuring a culture of "competitiveness" while actively searching for where it will all begin.
"I'm really excited at the potential of starting something new," Carpenter said, confidently looking on the new challenge. A consummate athlete during his college career, Carpenter excelled in basketball, soccer, tennis, baseball, football and eventually volleyball with Eastern University in Pennsylvania. Near the end of his time as a student with the university, Carpenter took an extra semester to begin coaching, which he has stuck with "ever since."
A near-lifetime of coaching will undoubtedly host challenges. But for Carpenter, his new role may be as exciting as it is immense.
"It starts with first reaching out and seeing what we have here and assessing the talent we have on campus," he said on the building process. "As we get more towards the summer and some of the spring/summer sports get outside, we'll try to get an open gym or two in here. And from there it's just kind of reaching out into the community."
Carpenter doesn't shy away from the reality of his position, however. Working at the ground floor of the program, one of his biggest hurdles is scouring some unpolished gems among the RCGC students. Or, "fringe" athletes, as he plaintively calls them.
"Year one, my main goal is to stock the team – just to get 10-12 students that have some familiarity of the sport. But from there the sky's the limit," he explained.
But truly coming together, Carpenter noted, may not take that long.
"I don't think it's outrageous to think that you can compete within a couple of years," he continued. "You can go into first with just one good recruiting class."
But from the beginning, perhaps more so than anything else, Carpenter wants to see that "competitiveness;" a word he doesn't shy away from repeating in regards to what he expects from his squad. "I want the kids to constantly be competing; may it be on a court in a match or here during practice," he affirmed while praising the long history of successful athletics at RCGC.
Challenge is, as an idea, lifted endlessly in sports vernacular. Athletes triumph or crumble under it. Coaches embolden themselves or become its newest victim. And the certain truth to it is that greatness is rarely achieved without confronting challenges head first. Carpenter knows this, from his days as a multi-sport athlete in college to his storied coaching career. While the prospect of building a team from nothing can seem furiously daunting, he stands eager to create his own history among the College's banners. He just has to begin.
Students interesting in the women's volleyball team can contact Coach Carpenter at acarpen3@RCGC.edu.
Rowan College at Gloucester County is located on a 250-acre campus on Tanyard Road, Deptford, just off Exit 56 of Route 55.