By Sean Mickey
There’s a familiar face at the Reilly Center this year. St. Bonaventure University alumnus and former coach Stephanie Fleming has returned as the men’s and women’s diving coach for the Bonnies.
“Coming back to Bonaventure was a really easy decision because last year my husband [Jesse Fleming] was named head women’s basketball coach,” Fleming said, “There was no question that I wanted to help out with the team as soon as I came back [to Olean].”
After coaching the Brown and White for several years, Fleming coached at the University of Findlay in Ohio, where she gained new experiences. With her gained expertise, she believes she can better guide the Bonnies.
“I got to work with some really great people and try things in different ways. I also enjoyed some success even though I had a small team,” said Fleming. “There was a lot about Findlay that reminded me about Bonaventure because it was a small campus, a pretty campus with a lot of great people there.”
With three freshmen and two sophomores, the Bonnies have one of their youngest squads in history this season.
“[Having a young team] will lead to a stronger group. With youth, there’s a lot more we need to accomplish, but at the same time, with youth, there’s a lot of opportunity for growth,” said Fleming.
She believes her group has a lot of potential, which can lead to tremendous success in the upcoming seasons.
“I thought the group did really well last year, but I know they can do so much better. I think mostly I’m just excited to see the progress grow,” Fleming said.
With her experience as a coach at Bonaventure and Findlay, Fleming’s style has developed over time.
“[My coaching style] has grown and changed over the last seven years,” said Fleming. “There’s a lot that I used and made important in my own coaching style from when I was a college diver, what I liked and didn’t like. I’ve changed and progressed as the years have gone on.”
The Bonnies’ season starts Oct. 6 at the Colgate Invitational in Hamilton, New York and continues through late March. Fleming wants her divers to learn and compete while having fun as the season can feel long and tedious.
“I know our season is very long, and for me, it’s very important that our kids are having fun,” Fleming said. “We’re DI, and we’re competitive, and we want to get better and work hard, but if we’re not having fun and remembering the passion that we have for the sport, then it can be a long season.”
Considering the life of a coach is a busy one, it could seem difficult to find time for family. Fleming is never too far away from her husband Jesse.
“This is the first year that we’ve coached at the same school in six or seven years, so it’s really nice to just go say hi or see him throughout the day,” said Fleming. “It’s fun that we both get to cheer for the same school. It’s just nice to see everything come full circle. He got his undergrad degree from here, I got my master’s from here, and Bona’s is where we met. [St. Bonaventure] really holds a special place in our hearts.”
As the coach of the Bonnies in 2013, the men captured the Atlantic 10 Championship. She is looking forward to similar success in the years to come.
“I really enjoyed the grind of practice and seeing the changes daily, but the biggest thing is A-10’s. There’s nothing better every year, with the early mornings and the long season and you get to A-10’s, and it just makes it all worth it,” Fleming said. “The fans screaming, the camaraderie and the excitement is what we live for. It’s what we work for day in and day out.”