Some coaches leave Harvard to work somewhere else. Others retire, while a few decide to spend more time with their family or pursue other interests.
And then there’s Shana Welch.
Welch left her post as the Crimson’s assistant men’s water polo coach to play professionally for the N.E. Patras Club in Greece in A1 Ethniki, the country’s most prestigious water polo league.
“All of us would jump at the opportunity to become a professional water polo player,” Harvard coach Ted Minnis said.
Welch began playing on a big stage at Michigan, where she became a three-time All-American and broke the Michigan marks for goals in a game, a season, and a career.
After graduating in 2007, Welch played professionally in Australia before landing a job at Bucknell as a swimming coach.
The following year Welch relocated to Cambridge, taking up her former post as the assistant water polo coach.
“Shana was great for us,” junior Mike Katzer said. “She brought a ton of experience playing at very high levels.”
Welch’s impact was broader than just her instruction to players. After coach Erik Farrar left following the 2009-10 season, she helped first-year coach Minnis adjust to the existing program.
“[Shana] understood the Harvard culture; she understood the way the athletic department did things,” Minnis said. “I wanted to make sure that tradition and some of the stuff stayed the same…she was really helpful in that.”
The possibility of playing in Europe presented itself this past summer, when several European clubs began contacting Welch.
Finally, in the middle of this fall’s water polo season, N.E. Patras came calling—this time with a contract. Welch accepted, though the decision was anything but easy.
“I was excited but sad at the same time that I would have to leave,” Welch said. “I’m gone for 10 months, and with that comes leaving my family and leaving Harvard and leaving my dog and leaving everything else.”
During the entire process, no one was more supportive than Minnis.
“He seemed more excited than I was,” Welch joked.