At the start of a sports season, it’s usually the coaches looking over a sea of new faces, assessing the talent in front of them.
This fall, two new faces will belong to those holding the clipboards.
Athletic counselor Alicia Longyear and former Citrus athlete Kenny Clements will be taking the reins of the cross-country and men’s water polo teams, respectively.
Longyear has had a long personal history with distance running, starting at Claremont High School in 1994. After she stopped competing—but not running—she started mentoring, with assistant coaching stints at CHS, Pomona Pitzer and the University of La Verne.
The hire will be Longyear’s first return to coaching since 2007. Since 2004, she’s served as the Citrus College athletics counselor.
“I was working on my master’s in counseling while I was at La Verne,” Longyear said. “I knew I loved psychology, I knew I loved athletics [but] I didn’t know how to piece it together.
“When I found out that community colleges have these counselors that work with the student-athlete population, I was like, ‘Genius!’”
Fall 2013 will be Longyear’s first season as a head coach. Though the team’s first meet isn’t until Sept. 6, she is already running into some challenges.
“I’m already noticing there’s a lot of administrative, behind-the-scenes stuff that I didn’t have to take care of when I was an assistant coach,” Longyear said, citing practice scheduling and selecting meets for the team. “Then it’s going to be the hard decisions . . . I never had to sit an athlete down and say, ‘This year, it’s not going to work for you.’”
Longyear showed some signs of discomfort when discussing the idea of cuts, as about 40 students have shown interest in joining the team, but there are only 20 spots available.
“Those types of tough decisions are new to me,” Longyear said. “But that’s the college system. This is not a walking/jogging class, this is varsity sports.”
Taking a fresh approach to college coaching will also extend to Kenny Clements, the newly-appointed men’s water polo coach. He will take over for Crystal Rivas, who coached the team for the past two years.
Clements made a lasting impression on the program after playing at Citrus from 1995-96 when he was named a two-time All-American and 1996 Western State Conference player of the year.
No Owl has accomplished that feat since.
“[It’s] exciting, new. [The job] came a lot sooner than I thought to be honest with you,” said Clements. “It’s definitely a place I saw myself one day if the opportunity came. I just didn’t think it was going to come this soon.”
Though he left Citrus, Clements never left the poolside. After playing for University of La Verne, he translated his success into coaching gigs at Rowland and Montebello High Schools.
At Montebello, Clements won three CIF Division III championships, in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
Though Clements says he’s still somewhat familiar with the teams of the Western State Conference, there’s still a lot of learning to do before he can start promising league titles.
“I haven’t seen any of these guys play, I haven’t seen them play any [opposing] teams, I don’t know what kind of level of talent we have [yet],” he said. “But just from talking to the boys and seeing how they responded to my questions, they seem motivated.”
Clements will be responsible for turning around a program that has struggled to just tread water in recent years. The team had only one winning season in the last six years, a decline that started after former head coach Bill Rawls ended a 37-year career with a state championship in 2000.
Clements, who played under Rawls, hopes to bring the same type of mentality to his own team.
“[Rawls] was more into the person, not the player,” Clements said. “That’s what I’ve done, that’s what I think has made me a successful coach. Even though I’m going to work [my players] hard, I’m going to expect and demand a lot out of them; I still care about them as a person—not just as a player.”
Students interested in joining cross country or water polo should email Longyear at firstname.lastname@example.org and Clements at email@example.com.