Kohut knocks fear out of the park
Fear is an emotion that is unwelcome in the mind of an athlete. It puts him or her on the defensive, which can hinder performance. Competitive athletes must be on the offensive and think positively, never considering risk or the dangers in sport.
Jess Kohut ’07,
winner of the Honda
© Steve Smith
This ideology is indisputable in theory. The reality for Jess Kohut ’07, however, was that fear was an undeniable opponent as she entered her senior season of softball at TCNJ. While pitching for the Lions in 2006, Kohut was struck in the face by a line drive traveling over 90 miles per hour off the bat of a Muhlenberg College hitter. She sustained extensive facial injuries that ended her season and, potentially, her career. But the gritty ballplayer rose up from the turf to dust off any physical or psychological obstacles and laced up her spikes for her final season at TCNJ.
Kohut’s exceptional courage and determination earned her the prestigious Honda Inspiration Award. She was selected out of a pool of candidates nominated by NCAA-member schools in Division I, II, and III. Kohut ’s story was revered as the most inspiring amongst all female collegiate athletes across the country in 2006.
“Returning to play my senior year was something I decided the second I got out of surgery, ” Kohut recalled. “It was something I had to do. I had played softball my entire life, and I didn’t want my career to end on those terms. There were some difficult moments, but honestly, the toughest aspect of coming back was playing the waiting game. It took time to get healthy enough to resume training. College athletes are taught to push themselves as hard as possible, and I had to learn to limit myself until I was back to full strength. ”
The “waiting game” comprised a seven-month absence from basic conditioning and physical activity. Once she was cleared to play, Kohut assumed the first-base position for the College. Although a corner infield position is not the safest position on the field, it ’s where head coach Sally Miller needed senior leadership. Kohut responded with more than just a veteran presence at first. She played near-flawless defense. While starting 29 of 32 games, she committed only three errors in 194 total chances to lead everyday infielders with a .985 fielding percentage. Her glove and bat helped TCNJ to 16 victories and also served as a source of inspiration to any teammate who ever fostered the thought, “I can’t….”
“We had two freshman infielders on the left side of the infield,” Kohut explained. “So first base was a perfect position to provide leadership. I could make good eye contact with the freshmen and guide them with positive body language. ”
Kohut with her award.
photo courtesy of
DBA Public Relations.
A Hillsdale resident, Kohut will receive her bachelor’s degree in December 2007 with a 3.43 GPA in elementary education/psychology. She plans to purse a career in teaching, and while commandeering a class of youngsters will present new challenges, she can always call on the mental toughness she exercised as an athlete.
“I learned a lot through this experience,” Kohut said. “I think the biggest thing I came away with is to enjoy what you do. I had to do something that was hard at times,
but I did it for myself.”
New lineup for athletics department
The departure of long-tenured Director of Athletics Kevin McHugh last spring brought about several changes in the athletics department. McHugh, who had been director of athletics at the College for 20 years, accepted a position last May as the athletics director and chair of the Department of Physical Education at Bates College in Lewiston, ME.
John Castaldo ’82 was selected to serve as interim director of athletics this academic year, while a national search for a full-time director is completed. “As an alumnus and highly respected coach and student-athlete mentor, John is familiar with our athletic department and its vital role within our community, ” said Vice President for Student Affairs James Norfleet. “His experience and strong work ethic, along with his collaborative leadership style and impeccable integrity, make him an excellent choice for this position. ”
John Castaldo ’82
© Steve Smith
For the last 14 years, Castaldo was the head coach of TCNJ’s men’s basketball team. During that time, his teams compiled a record of 200-149 and made several appearances in the New Jersey Athletic Conference playoffs.
Filling in for Castaldo as the interim head coach of the men’s basketball team this season will be Matt Hunter. Hunter has served as a full-time assistant coach for the Lions the past two seasons.
As part of the reorganization in the athletics department, Head Wrestling Coach David Icenhower Sr. assumed additional administrative responsibilities as interim senior associate athletic director. Icenhower will continue to serve as head wrestling coach during this time.
Tony Marchetti ’96, ’02
He’d like to teach the world to swing
For many, a move to the other side of the world, with the differences in culture and language, would be frightening. For Rick Dell, formerly the head baseball coach at TCNJ, the move was the opportunity of a lifetime.
After 27 years at TCNJ, Dell left the College last summer to take the position of director of baseball operations in Asia for Major League Baseball (MLB). He is based in Beijing, China. His new position started on September 1, but during the summer, he headed the first-ever China Baseball Academy in Wuxi, China, to train young baseball talent from across China, in conjunction with the China Baseball League.
During his coaching career at TCNJ (25 seasons with baseball, and 14 with soccer), Dell and his teams accumulated over 800 career wins and 19 NCAA Tournament berths.
“During the past 27 years, it has been an honor and a privilege to be the head baseball coach at TCNJ. I have been fortunate enough to have worked in a positive and progressive environment provided by the College, and to have been surrounded by quality players, coaches, parents, alumni, and particularly my long-time assistants Bill Dearden, Dean Glus ’02, and Ed Yaris. I will miss the relationships here at TCNJ but look forward to following the successes of the baseball team in years to come,” Dell said.
Traveling overseas for the United States Baseball Federation and Major League Baseball has been routine for Dell. Since 1989, Dell has traveled to countries such as Italy, Germany, Estonia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Australia to instruct baseball players. In 1999, Dell promoted development of baseball for MLB in the Philippines and New Zealand.
Following Dell’s departure, Glus was appointed interim head baseball coach by John Castaldo. Glus has served as the baseball program ’s assistant coach for 16 years.
Madeline M. Patrick ’10
Women’s lacrosse program a true success story
In August, ESPN.com ran a story on the College’s women’s lacrosse team, calling it one of the “great college sports programs” in the country. The article lauded the program’s winning tradition, which includes 12 Division III titles, as well as the current players ’ work ethic both on the field and in the classroom. In the article, Coach Sharon Pfluger credited the “giant family” of past and present players and coaches for making the program so successful. The story was part of a series on what ESPN considers “the nation’s best programs” that “don’t garner the attention they deserve.”
Tony Marchetti ’96, ’02