As a student, Kelsey Levine, raced on the slopes for Williams College. Now, she’s not only Head Coach of Alpine Skiing there—she’s the only woman to hold that head coach rank in her sport at the NCAA level. She didn’t set out to be a trailblazer, or even embark on a career in sport. She studied computer science and has built three apps—one ski related, one environmental and a project management tool. When it came to a career choice, Levine, a native of Maine, simply followed a path to see where it took her.Excelle Sports: You studied computer science at Williams College. Did you ever think you’d become a coach or had you planned to go into computer science as a career? When did that shift occur?Kelsey Levine: I found computer science really interesting. I wasn't really taking classes based on a career choice, but I was leaving that path, that doorway open. I wasn't quite ready to let go of the ski world and I had an opportunity to come back and coach as an assistant for four years afterward. That was a great way to stay involved a little bit longer. The Computer Science department gave me a job so I could work part-time as a research associate in the computer science department and be the assistant ski coach the other half of the time. So it was a really nice combination between the two. I really didn't have a defined pathway but was just trying to keep options open and do what I was excited about.Excelle: Do women approach coaching with a different philosophy than men might or maybe the question should be, do you bring something different to the table as a coach?KL: To be honest, the coaches I had growing up were mainly male coaches and they each brought something different to the table. As a young skier, I had coaches who taught me how to play on skis and we'd stay out on the mountain until the lifts closed. In high school, at Burke Mountain Academy, I was taught professionalism and our coaches held us to an incredibly high standard. In college, my coach pushed us to take ownership of our skiing and to make opportunities for ourselves. I'm not sure it's that I'm a woman, necessarily, that's a different perspective, but I have my own perspective that I bring.
[caption id="attachment_306" align="alignleft" width="150"] Kelsey Levine (Photo: Williams College)[/caption]
Excelle: Does being a female coach come with challenges?KL: The ski-coaching world is pretty physical. You have to carry bundles of gates and there is a lot of moving equipment around. I'm small so that can be difficult. Excelle: Does a sense of pride come with being the only woman to run an entire program at your level? KL: I'm definitely proud of that. I think what should make someone qualified for the job is if they're qualified for the job. I just want to do a really good job and show that it's particular qualities that people have that make them good at anything so it doesn't really matter—there are men who are great at doing things, there are women who are great at doing things. It's certainly nice to hopefully open that door and have the best people in those positions.Excelle: Do you think we'll see more women in sport at higher levels?KL: Yes. I think that athletes of both genders respond to good coaching, whether the coach is male or female. We certainly already have women holding positions in sports at high levels, whether as athletic directors or head coaches of athletic teams. I hope that as more women fill these positions, they can serve as role models for female athletes looking to lead teams or programs.Excelle: What's your secret to success as a coach?KL: Always learning. I always want to learn. I am always looking for ways to get better, being really invested in what I'm doing and believing in the athletes.