Lake Forest College Welcomes Assistant Coaches Paluch, Cooper and Korth
By Natalie Bober
Lake Forest College graduates Cori Cooper ’13, Kris Korth ’16, and Melissa Paluch ’16 are the newest members of the athletic department's coaching staff. First-team All-Midwest Conference selection and two-time Academic-All Midwest Conference honoree, Cori Cooper, returns to the College as the assistant coach for volleyball and as an admissions counselor. Eight time conference champion and four year Academic All-Midwest Conference honoree, Kris Korth, will serve as the assistant coach for swimming and diving. Two-time Slaats Cup winner and three year captain, Melissa Paluch, will make her coaching debut as the assistant coach for women’s hockey.
Hiring alumni is becoming an entrenched tradition at the College. Cooper, Korth, and Paluch join on staff head coach alumni, Brian Bruha ’02, TR Bell ’96, Mike Dau ’58, Vadim Tashlitsky ’00 and assistant coaches Luke Butts ’12, Kelsey Hoeper ’13, Ted Soenksen ’06, Matthew Jones ’95.
“We’ve always had a small number of alumni who have coached, but I find the recent upward trend exciting and would love to make this a Forester tradition,” commented Lake Forest College Director of Athletics Jackie Slaats.
Paluch is a Parma, Michigan native who graduated with a degree in Psychology. She is one of only three athletes in Lake Forest College women’s hockey history to score over 100 career points. She is also the only three-year captain in the program’s history and the only player to win back-to-back Ry McCarthy awards, which is given to one athlete who best exhibits spirit, determination, dedication, and love of hockey.
Paluch recognizes the challenge of transitioning from an athlete to a coach, particularly since she will coach many of her former teammates.
“The biggest transition hasn't even occurred yet. Once I'm around the girls more and more everyday, the transition will be a little different. However, it's all about knowing the line between being friends and the coach-athlete relationship. It is not just a transition for me, it's for all of them, too. They all are great girls and they will help with the process.”
During Paluch's time with the Foresters, she racked up 46 goals and 56 assists in 90 games. On January 5, 2016, while playing against Middlebury College in Vermont, Paluch suffered a lower body injury which ended her senior year hockey season.
“After getting injured, most people appreciate the game they love even more, and that happened to me too,” said Paluch. “I just cannot wait to help the team out as much as they need it to better them as individuals and the team as a whole.”
Paluch’s coaching philosophy is that every team member should strive to surpass her personal best. Paluch continues, “My advice to each team member is to compete every single day with your whole heart. Set your goals and do everything in your power to achieve those goals. Challenge yourself, challenge your teammates, challenge your coaches. Without challenge, who will get better?”
The women’s hockey season opens on the road on Saturday, October 29, against St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Cooper, assistant coach for volleyball, is a Crystal Lake, Illinois native. She graduated from the College with a double major in English and Communication. Cooper was named First Team All-Midwest Conference as a junior and to the Second Team following each of her other three seasons. Cooper is one of four athletes in the program to exceed 1,000 career points.
After Cooper graduated, she worked at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois as the Director of Volleyball Operations where she attended every practice, every coach’s meeting, and every game.
“It was a great experience to be a part of all coaching decisions and experience Big 10 volleyball” Cooper stated.
Cooper was also a lead trainer and head coach at a local volleyball club.
The primary challenge facing Cooper as a coach “is making sure the entire team is on the same page in terms of our team pillars and the process we are all investing in as a team. We have team pillars that are a vital component to the program and we hope that our players live by these pillars every day.”
Cooper’s coaching theory is to encourage each team member to push herself every day, and to better herself both on and off the floor.
“I know it sounds corny, but your time as a student-athlete flies by and you don’t want to graduate thinking that there was maybe more you could do as a student-athlete. I tell each team member to put her best foot forward everyday and to have a positive attitude. When you don’t think you can work any harder, you can, and it is important to let your coaches push you to that point to make you the best athlete you can be. It is important to have pride in yourself, your sport, your team, and your school to help maintain the tradition of excellence at Lake Forest.”
The Forester volleyball team will play a pair of matches in Wisconsin this weekend, taking on Lawrence University Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. and St. Norbert College at 1:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
Korth, the newest addition to the swimming and diving coaching staff, was a four year letter winner, captain, and was a member of back-to-back conference championship teams in 2014 and 2015. Korth graduated from the College in 2016 with a major in Biology and a double minor in Chemistry and Environmental Studies.
“I wanted to give back to the school and to the team because both have had a large impact on my life,” said Korth.
Korth anticipates the most difficult part of coaching “will be establishing myself as a coach, rather than as a swimmer.” Korth goes on to say, “this time last year I was one of them, and now I'm not. I need to remember that I'm their coach and that sometimes involves telling my friends that they aren't working hard enough or that I'm disappointed in them. On the other hand, I get to tell them when I'm proud of them, and I get to see their hard work pay off. Thinking back to my last Conference meet, the best moments were seeing the smile on my friend's face as he won race after race, and I'm excited to see that again.”
Reflecting on his own experience as a student-athlete, Korth has two pieces of advice for his teammates. “The first is that their time on the team is short and there are a lot of high notes that are never going to be reached again, so they need to enjoy them while they can. The second is to ask themselves what they could have done better after each practice, race, and meet, and then make the necessary changes so that they can reach their goals.”
The swimming and diving team begins its season on Saturday, October 29 at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“It’s great to have alumni on our coaching staff,” noted Slaats. “Their perspective on what it means to be a Lake Forest College student-athlete is incredibly valuable to both current team members and prospective student-athletes. I can report that Forester alumni are impressive program ambassadors and their commitment to the College’s success speaks volumes.”