Senior Eric Gerken is out of football eligibility because he played a year at Iona before attending the Coast Guard Academy, so he is serving as an assistant coach this season. Gerken is also a member of the Bears baseball team and will play his final year of baseball this Spring. We had a chance to get his thoughts on coaching football and his senior season.
How hard has it been to not be playing football this season?
I guess it is always going to be hard to go from doing something that you have been so used to preparing for and doing for the past 16 years of your life to standing on the sidelines. It is also hard seeing the guys that I started with four years ago in Swab Summer out there playing knowing everything we have been through and not being able to help them out there on the field.
How has the adjustment from player to coach gone for you?
It has been quick I guess you could say. I love the game and all the guys out there are great so I think its making the adjustment a little easier then it should be having only been out for less then a year from playing. It definitely is a whole different side of the game that I don't think many realize until they have had a chance to experience both.
What have you learned about coaching football that you didn't realize while you were playing?
If you know me and as many of my past coaches can attest that I wasn't always the best at it but sometimes you just need to close your mouth and listen. There is always someone that sees something you can't see and knows something that you don't know. There is a reason some are called players and some are called coaches.
Are you enjoying your experience as an assistant coach?
I was a little skeptical going into the year on whether I would really enjoy being out there only a year after I was done playing, but I have to say I am having a great time. I also think it is helping me get over the fact that I can't play anymore. I may not be out on the field making plays like I am used to but I am still on the field contributing to the teams success in some way.
What has been the biggest challenge for you this season as a coach?
I think it understanding that every player is different and you have to approach certain people accordingly. Also I find myself getting frustrated watching things that happen on the field knowing the position I was in last year in making some of those plays. At the same time I am using my biggest challenge as my biggest learning lesson too.
Has it been difficult to be looked at as a coach after playing with most of these players last season?
I don't think so. The guys are very receptive towards me being out there helping out. I have been in the offense for three years and this type of offense since high school so I have a good handle on what Coach LaForte is trying to do out there and the guys understand that too. If I see something that can help someone out then I will speak up, but not much more then if I was on the field playing in my final season.
What's different from playing sports for Coast Guard then for other schools?
I would say the friendships you form are a lot closer at the Academy then other schools. We go through many challenging situations and knowing that the person you stand next to on the field or court goes through those same obstacles puts a little more trust in each other. Also in a lot of other colleges when you leave there is not much reason to come back or keep in touch, but that's not the case at the Academy.
What was your most memorable moment as a Coast Guard football player?
There are a lot that I could choose from. I think one that stands out is the game against Mass. Maritime last season when we put 61 up on them. It was one of the best team wins that I have been apart of at the Academy. It was just a fun game in a great atmosphere with it being homecoming weekend. I also have to say when I broke the single season record last season at Maine Maritime. I was playing in my final game, my parents made the trip to the game, and I got to go out with a win ending a great college career.
What are your goals for the upcoming baseball season?
I want us to play as a team. We have the talent to be one of the best baseball teams to leave the Academy but we can't play on potential anymore. Personally I look to be more of a role player. Whatever role that is I won't know until we step out onto the field in the spring. I think the fellow seniors and myself are looking to challenge ourselves this season and go out with a successful season.
Where would you like to go upon graduation in May?
I hope to be heading south to Pensacola, Fla. to attend Flight School. Realistically though wherever I end up going I look forward to making the best out of it. This is a great time in my life you go out and explore and see everything the Coast Guard has to offer.