After finishing fifth in the Patriot League Championship last season, the Lehigh women’s rowing team parted ways with head coach Brian Conley after 12 years with the team.
Conley was named head women’s rowing coach at Old Dominion University.
Senior rower Fatima Mumtaz said at first she was upset to hear about Conley’s departure, crediting him with building a strong culture for the team.
“I think (Conley) really set up Lehigh rowing and made us an actual Division I team,” Mumtaz said. “Whether that be funding us to have the right boats to compete in that are of the same caliber as Bucknell and our other big rivals and just getting us set on a really proper training plan and doing all of the background work to get our team where it is.”
Lehigh then began searching for a new coach, and after several rounds of interviews, selected Peter Costas to take over the program.
Costas comes from Princeton University where he was the assistant coach for the women’s lightweight program for three seasons.
Costas has had an extensive rowing career, having been on the team at the University of Virginia when he was a student.
During his time as a coach at the Brunswick School in Connecticut and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Costas said he had a reputation of meeting with athletes individually to discuss personal goals and feedback. He said he hopes to bring that same method of coaching to Lehigh.
“Looking at the fall, it’s really about establishing a comfort level with all these athletes that are returning and familiar with what it is to balance being a student at Lehigh with being a part of a Division I team,” Costas said.
Costas said he hopes to create a safe environment for his rowers to try new things.
“Creating an environment where people are excited to make mistakes and be outside their comfort zone, I think that takes trust and time,” Costas said. “I believe heavily on what I’ve seen work really well and developing trust between coaches and athletes and between the athletes themselves, as well.”
Costas said he officially joined the team this past week.
Before then, fifth-year Honora Campbell said the rowers had been running the practices themselves.
“It has been an interesting transition because we still have access to our assistant coaches from last year, so they’ve been helping facilitate practice, but without a full-time coach on campus, the first few weeks looked different than it has in years past,” Campbell said.
Campbell said the practices have been structured by both land exercises, which include using the rowing machines and doing laps on the Lehigh River.
After the arrival of their new coach, many rowers have set overall goals for the season, including sophomore Elise Grass.
“We want to win the Patriot League Championship and just be better than last year and strive together more as a team and take advantage of this new opportunity with a new coach and see what we can do,” Grass said.