The University of Nebraska-Lincoln women’s rifle team prepares for its home debut Oct. 12 in Head Coach Rachel Martin’s inaugural season.
The 2017 UNL graduate and Smallbore Record holder returned to her alma mater last spring, after working for two years as an assistant coach at Army West Point. The 2020 Olympic hopeful brings an unexpected mentality to the program.
“Great people make great athletes,” Martin said. “My main goal is developing the girls as people and then the scores will come after.”
Their ultimate goal is to place in the top four in the NCAA. Martin believes she needs to help the student-athletes develop good life skills and turn into good role models first.
Martin and UNL assistant coach Mindy Miles, who is also training for the 2020 Olympic Trials, demonstrate these skills. They maintain full focus on their team during practice.
“We have a rule in practice where we don’t answer the phones or emails,” Martin said. “We are completely committed to the girls.”
As an assistant coach, Martin’s only task was to coach. Now she must coach, maintain the shooting range, handle recruiting, complete piles of paperwork and build team cohesiveness.
Former Husker Rifle head coach Ashley Macallister said she was most worried about how her descision to move to Texas would affect her team’s cohesiveness and trust.
“For the athletes, it’s very emotional, very hard and very traumatic when there’s a coaching change,” Macallister said. “They can feel abandoned.”
Macallister said she found comfort knowing Martin understands this.
“She is very unique unlike a lot of athletes. She went through two coaches as an athlete, just at UNL,” Macallister said. “She has a great ability with relationships.”
Martin was coached by Stacy Underwood her freshman year and Ashley Macallister her three remaining years at UNL.
“I’m happy to leave my program to her,” Macallister said. “The ones who work the hardest are the ones that are going to be the best.”
Martin does not shy away from hard work.
After competing in a preliminary round of Olympic Trials last week, she was asking others for advice on her own coaching.
Some were eager to help the 24 year old.
“There are really so many people who are so good about it and encouraging. They have known me a very long time and they assume I’m going to succeed,” Martin said.
Others were more reluctant.
“They are waiting to see what I am going to de before they help at all,” Martin said.
Some doubt her because of her age.
“It shouldn’t matter, but I guess it’s similar to when people judge gender or race,” Martin said. “At the end of the day, age shouldn’t matter if doing my job well.”
Despite these doubts, Martin and Miles’ young ages and current status as athletes help there coaching abilities.
“We are still competing, so we are still learning the nitty gritty details,” Martin said.
Maddie Korthas, a senior captain on the UNL Women’s Rifle Team, said she thinks this gives her and her team a leg up.
“Both are shooting and still involved at an elite level, so they are getting a lot of new information, new techniques and tricks,” Korthas said.
If an athlete comes to them with a question, Martin can later get in position. She can play around to find out exactly what the athlete is talking about. She can offer advice based on visuals and experience rather visuals alone.
Martin and Miles have been changing Korthas’s air rifle position.
“Even if its a little bit shaky have something to compensate,” Korthas said. “They have a lot of ideas and a lot of fresh ideas that I really like.”
This first-hand experience is a skill coaches who no longer compete simply cannot do. Martin also admits her experience in failures might help her more as a coach than her accomplishments.
“I honestly needed the lows. It helps me notice it in the girls and help them hopefully not teater over that edge,” Martin said.
The 2015 NCAA Smallbore Champion uses her own mistakes to help prevent her team from having the same mistakes.
Martin knows the athletes are more than just their points. She uses rifle to teach lifelong skills.
“You don’t need to be confident; you just need to be brave enough to go out and do it, to take that first step,” Martin said.
Martin is inspiring her team to follow in these footsteps.
“Coach Martin and coach Miles have made a really positive impact on our team so far, and I’m excited this is our first match for our coaches at home,” Korthas said.
The Huskers will face West Virginia at the Nebraska Rifle Range on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.