Cleary University is a small business school located in Howell, Michigan with 19 varsity athletic teams that are apart of the NAIA collegiate conference and are now adding a women’s ice hockey program for the 2021-2022 season.
The success the university has seen with the men’s ice hockey program has allowed the university to begin building a women’s program with newly announced head coach Brittany Knopp.
Coach Brittany Knopp
She previously coached with Central Michigan University and managed the Mount Pleasant Ice Arena before she made the decision to coach at Cleary.
Coach Knopp explained at Central Michigan the women’s hockey team was a club program and the students had to pay to play. With this style of programming it was less about coaching and more about running a business to help keep the team afloat through constant fundraising.
She explained how she came into contact with Cleary, “When I met with Heather (Cleary University Athletic Director) and Dana (current Cleary student), they presented the package of ‘hey we’re going to make it stress free for our student-athletes they are just going to be able to come and play college hockey and get a wonderful business degree’, and automatically I was on board.”
Now that she is the head coach of a new program, the only obstacle in Coach Knopp’s way is COVID-19. Recruiting for the new program started in early 2020 before COVID-19 hit and she only had about one month of recruiting completed and with the restrictions in place, she was only able to reach out to recruits through email making it difficult to make a significant impression on a potential athlete.
Potential students are unable to visit the campus for tours, dorm visits etc. Also, there was no recruiting allowed at any tournaments due to COVID-19 making it hard for Coach Knopp to see players in action.
“It’s really hard on the players who are trying to get recruited as well, because they are not able to experience the [full] recruiting process,” she says.
Despite the difficulties COVID-19 has created, Coach Knopp has two current students, Dana Weitenberner and Marisa Soltman who are committed to playing. They are also helping in the recruiting process, as they are seeking 12 freshman girls to commit.
“I’ve always wanted to play college hockey, this was an opportunity and I went for it”, Dana said when considering joining the program.
“It’s been my dream to play college hockey, the previous coach recruited me and I wanted to start the program at Cleary” Marisa said.
They both have extensive playing experience before coming to Cleary and are most excited about being able to play on a team and having a season.
Dana has been a part of the recruiting process and said, “It’s challenging because you don’t know what the girls’ majors are… so being a business school it’s hard to find people who want to go into business… but it’s super fun to try and gain players.”
Building a program from the ground up can come with a lot of obstacles, luckily for Coach Knopp she is only dealing with COVID-19 restrictions, but she and her current players are hopeful they will find their 12 freshman and start their 2021-2022 season off on the right foot.
Coach Knopp says, “I am most excited about giving women more opportunities to play in college.”
About Cleary University
Founded in 1883, Cleary University is a four-year, world-class university bestowing undergraduate and graduate degrees from a unique Business Arts curriculum, driven by a faculty of thought leaders with deep, practical experience in their industries. Offering on-campus and online education models, Cleary provides a rich residence life and vibrant athletics, with more than 200 students live on a rolling, 50-acre campus and nearly 2,000 students overall. Graduates land jobs faster than their peers and with higher earning salaries at the start of their careers.
Cleary University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, a proud member of the HLC Standard Pathway, and an approved institution by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. A nonprofit university, Cleary’s campus is located at 3750 Cleary Drive, Howell, MI 48843, (800) 686-1883. Cleary also hosts an education center at 8904 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202. www.cleary.edu
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