Keeping Up With the Alumni: Featuring Katie Rowan
Katie Rowan graduated from Syracuse in 2009 as one of the best attackers to graduate from the program. Rowan ended her career as Syracuse's all-time leader in points (396) and assists (164), and ranked fourth on the NCAA Division I career scoring list and third on the career assists list. She was also chosen her senior year as the Soladay Award Winner as well as the Syracuse Female Athlete of the Year.
Since then, Rowan has been busy establishing herself as a coach and leader in the lacrosse world. In 2010, she served as the volunteer assistant for the Syracuse Women's Lacrosse team. Rowan graduated with a degree in Inclusive Elementary and Special Education and a degree in Sociology, and then she stayed as a volunteer coach for the year after she graduated so she could get her masters in Literacy Education. Interestingly enough, her original idea for her future career path was not coaching at the collegiate level.
"I always wanted to be an elementary school teacher," Rowan said. "I always thought I would coach at the youth or high school level, but when I graduated in 2009 and then in 2010 for my masters...there weren't many teaching jobs available at the time."
While there weren't many teaching jobs available, there was an opening for an assistant coach at UAlbany, which Rowan applied for and was fortunate enough to receive. She took on the assistant coach position at Albany in 2011-12, helping to lead that team to the 2011 America East Conference regular-season and conference titles. She then rejoined the Syracuse staff for three years as an assistant, assisting in the development of Syracuse Women's Lacrosse legends such as Alyssa Murray and Kayla Treanor.
After hearing that Rowan was still in the coaching industry by 2015, and knowing what I know about how her career in coaching has progressed since that point, the question on my mind was this: what made her stay?
"I thought I would just do it for a little while as I looked for teaching positions," Rowan said. "And then year after year, I stayed in coaching and I always kind of had teaching in the back of my mind. But at the end of the day, I just could never really step away from from the collegiate coaching." She continued, "I really thought that it combined to my love for education and for teaching with my endless love for lacrosse and developing young women."
And so she stayed.
Rowan left Syracuse in 2015 to take on her next adventure: accepting the head coaching position at Wagner College. In her first season there, she led Wagner to the 2016 Northeast Conference championship, the first in program history. Her career record at Wagner over a three year span was 31-27, including a 14-6 record in 2018.
In June of 2018, Rowan returned to Albany where she has been the head coach ever since. Her most recent season was cut short due to Covid-19, but she had recorded a 3-2 record up to that point. In the season prior (2019), her first season as head coach at UAlbany, her record on the season was 11-7, a record good enough to bring the team to their ninth-straight America East title game.
Rowan explains that for her, though, the fulfillment she gets from coaching goes beyond the statistics, beyond the numbers, and beyond the wins and losses.
"I just love the lacrosse. I am so passionate about the competitiveness and excitement that it brings," Rowan said. "And I just love working with the ladies and developing them into strong players and really great people too."
Developing players into strong people is a theme that Rowan expressed consistently as one of the most gratifying parts of her coaching experience. She says that her coaching style revolves around having a positive outlook, and always making sure that her players feel that positivity and support.
"I love creating that kind of environment and culture where there's that balance of having a lot of fun, being creative, and keeping things light while also being really intense and competitive," Rowan said. "Just finding that balance between the two and just making it a positive experience."
That positivity and support was especially critical for Rowan to bring for her players in the 2020 season, a lacrosse season cut short by something outside of her control. Rowan explained that the way her team got through the experience was by knowing that they could depend on each other for emotional support.
"It's just such a bigger picture than lacrosse or one season. To see the looks on the team's faces, especially those seniors, knowing that they might not step on the field again was really hard." Rowan said "We just really wanted to be there for everyone and be supportive. Throughout this whole process, keeping the lines of communication and trust between the players and coaches was really important."
Rowan says that it has been a great feeling to step back on the field with her players this fall, even if practices do look and feel a little different.
"Seeing their [her players] excitement and energy to be on the field again together is so rewarding to see as a coach," Rowan said. "We're just back to the basics and taking a lot of pride in doing the little things."
Even though the pandemic has impacted all of her players, each in their own way, she says they have remained positive and emphasize the little steps forward:
"One thing that they [her players] have talked about is not taking for granted these opportunities to play the game that we love and to take every opportunity that we have to to learn and grow as a player."
Outside of her role as a coach for UAlbany, Rowan has also been involved in coaching at the professional level. She was the head coach of Pride, one of the teams in the Women's Professional Lacrosse League, for the two seasons that the league was active (2018 and 2019).
Rowan also has had a hand in the Haudenosaunee National Team for several years. She was an assistant coach for the U19 Haudenosaunee National Team that played in the World Games in August 2019 in Peterborough, Canada. Current Syracuse player Jalyn Jimerson was on the team. She also coached Haudenosaunee for the Pan-American Lacrosse Association Women’s World Qualifiers in November 2019 in Auburndale, Florida. Haudenosaunee came in first place out of 6 teams.
She now serves as the head coach of the Haudenosaunee National Senior Team for the World Games, officially being named the head coach on May 1, 2020. Now, she will prepare the team for the 2021 World Games in Towson, Maryland. She spoke about her experience working with these players and this team:
“It is an honor to coach the Haudenosaunee Nationals Women’s Lacrosse program. I feel very fortunate to work with so many talented, passionate, and inspiring women. These women have laid a strong foundation for current and future lacrosse players and will continue to do so, and it is humbling to be part of the experience," Rowan said. "It is my goal to help provide the players with a positive experience playing for their Nation and as much as I hope to have a strong impact on the players, the team members have such a deep impact on me as I continue to grow and learn as an individual." She continued, "It is also very special for me to coach past teammates and players at Syracuse University, as well as so many incredible women I have been fortunate to meet over the years.”