Back again: Cunningham, Head return to Storm athletics

by Carlie BealsStaff Writer

Some athletes choose to participate in Storm athletics in a different way once they graduate: coaching. Many coaches at Simpson College were once suited up in a Storm uniform, competing in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. This year, there have been many new coaching additions to teams, and among many of the new assistant coaches, many were once Simpson athletes. Chris Cunningham, first year assistant men’s and women’s cross country coach, is no stranger to Storm athletics. Cunningham is one of the most decorated runners to ever compete at Simpson. Prior to graduating in 1992, Cunningham was a three-time NCAA Division III Championship qualifier, and earned All-American honors in 1991 and all-region honors in 1988 and 1991. She was also awarded all-conference honors four different times. She was the first Simpson cross country runner to qualify for the NCAA Division III Championships, the first Simpson runner to ever win an IIAC individual cross country championship (1988) and was named IIAC MVP in 1988. “It’s awesome to be back,” Cunningham said. “I absolutely love the atmosphere here.”Cunningham is excited about the opportunity to help out the program that she once competed for. “I’ve always been in connection with Simpson through family and friends and have always followed cross country,” Cunningham said. “I’m excited to help get the program back where it should be.”The last time Simpson was the reigning cross country conference champions was 1990. Cunningham was a part of that success and has high hopes for the future.”I have the ambition to see my alma mater at the top again,” Cunningham said. “I know what the program is capable of.”Cunningham enjoys many things about being back at Simpson.”It brings back so many memories,” Cunningham said. “Walking into practice, seeing people compete and bond… we’re like one big family headed in the right direction.”The Simpson football team has also welcomed two former players to their staff this year. Defensive line coach Curtis Head and tight end coach Nathan Seberg are both in their first season as assistant coaches for the Storm. Head was a three-year letter winner for the Storm and earned second team all-conference honors in 2003. After graduating, Head became a manager with Pella Corporation. This helped him in his decision to come back and coach at Simpson.”I was in a job I didn’t want to do forever,” Head said. “I knew I wanted to be back with football and kids.”Head is enjoying his new role with the Storm football team. He enjoys being able to help players since he was once in their shoes.”The chance to right the wrongs is something I enjoy about being a coach,” Head said. “Just to show players that there are better choices out there than I made when I was a player.”Although Head is enjoying his new role as a coach, there are still things he misses about being a player.”I miss the hard work you put in with your team and being able to enjoy your wins with a group of guys who are your best friends,” Head said.Seberg was a member of the Storm defensive line from 2004-2006 and was selected academic all-conference three times. He is excited at the opportunity to come back to coach after graduating less than a year ago.”I enjoyed Storm athletics a lot and wanted to come back to help the success that I had seen when I played here,” Seberg said.Seberg enjoys certain things about being a coach instead of a player.”The whistle,” Seberg said. “I really do enjoy that. I also like seeing the behind the scenes stuff.” Because Seberg graduated last May, he is now coaching players he once was teammates with.”It was weird at first, but I’ve never had a problem,” Seberg said. “I expect the same things out of my players as when I was playing with them.”Head Football Coach Jay Nieman understands the importance and the impact it has on a team when former players come back and coach. “It has an impact especially when they have been in the program when the team had success,” Nieman said. “Coaches on staff can help players understand what it takes to be on top.”Not only does it have a positive impact on current players, but the recruiting side of coaching is also impacted when former players come back as coaches.”On the outside looking in, if alumni want to come back, it must be a good experience,” Neiman said. “They also help as recruiters because they know the ins and outs of the school and the system.”Whether they are in a Storm uniform or are coaching on the sidelines, all agree that being a part of Storm athletics has positively impacted their lives and that coming back to coach has been a great decision.”It’s a great experience,” Head said. “You get to come back and help out the program you were a part of.”