By Emily Loux, MASCAC Director of Media Relations
In a student-athletes playing career, a coach can be one of the most influential people in their life. Whether it is assisting with technique, providing support in the classroom or guidance in all ways of life, a coach can be a mentor, friend and confidant. For Stephanie Rouse of Salem State, the influence of her college coach guided her career path.
Stephanie Rouse nee. Lannon was a four-year member of the Bridgewater State field hockey and women's lacrosse teams. During her time with the Bears, she earned MASCAC and Little East All-Academic honors while helping the field hockey team to MASCAC titles in 2010 and 2011 and New England Women's Lacrosse Association (NEWLA) crowns from 2009-2012 plus a spot in the NCAA Tournament all four years.
During her playing days at Bridgewater State, Rouse had the same coach for both field hockey and women's lacrosse almost her entire career. Erika Smith, the all-time winningest coach in both sports, coached field hockey from 2006-2013 and women's lacrosse from 2006-2011 and again in 2013. It was Smith's influence that molded Rouse's view for the future.
"My coach (Erika Smith) in college made an impression on me seeing how well she did at Bridgewater State," Rouse said. "She was a role model to me coaching both so I knew it was what I wanted to do. I couldn't imagine choosing one over the other."
Following graduation from Bridgewater State in 2012 with her Bachelor of Science degree in physical education with a concentration in exercise science, Rouse served on the Salem State field hockey team as an assistant in 2012 before moving to Gordon College for two years as the assistant lacrosse coach and one as the assistant field hockey coach where she led the Fighting Scots to a Commonwealth Coach Conference Field Hockey Championship.
Although she was following her dream as an assistant coach, the thought of returning to her MASCAC roots became an offer to good to pass up.
"Being from nearby Swampscott, I have enjoyed taking over the program at Salem which is in my community but being the MASCAC makes it extra special, Rouse said. "It is what I was used to. Those were the teams I competed against and some of the coaches are still the same. It is great to see how the MASCAC has changed. This is the conference I know and am comfortable with and now I get to be a coach with them too."
Since taking over the helm of the Vikings' women's lacrosse team, the team has punched a ticket to the MASCAC Tournament all three years and had four All-Conference honorees from 2015-2017. In 2015, she also was named the field hockey head coach for Salem State. Although she has three jobs rolled into one on campus, Rouse is also the equipment manager, she knows choosing between field hockey and women's lacrosse is impossible.
When she heads out on the field, there is a familiar face for Rouse on the sidelines as her former BSU teammate Kelly Downs is now the women's lacrosse head coach at Worcester State. Rouse describes it as a "great experience" being able to coach with/against a former teammate and loves the friendly rivalry they have as coaches.
Reflecting on her time as a student-athlete, Rouse has a lot of fond memories whether it was the success of the teams she competed on, her teammates, coaches or Bridgewater State itself, it is a feeling she is now trying to replicate with her student-athletes as a coach and share her passion for the game with them.
"Since I have been here, I'm trying to build Salem State up to the level of Bridgewater State and get the student-athletes to feel the same feeling of success as I had," said Rouse. "It is a big transition going from being a student-athlete to a coach. There is a lot of passion for the coaches that come straight being a player to coaching which is brought with them. The sport is still very fresh to them and they can relate more to the student-athletes."
With only a few years separating her time as a student-athlete and her new career as a dual-sport head coach, Rouse knows how important her time at Bridgewater State and in the MASCAC prepared her for life after it. For her, there are several keys to getting all you can out of your experience as a student-athlete.
"Your time goes quickly so enjoy it," Rouse said. "Put in the effort. You all have a passion so be committed and dedicated. Push your limits and see what success you can bring to your team. If you can bring success individually, it will help your team be successful. The passion for your sport that drives you so far and put in the effort and that will get you farther."