Before taking the reins of the Navy women's rowing team last summer, Joe Schlosberg knew he was going to have some big shoes to fill.
His predecessor, Mike Hughes, put the Midshipmen on the map during an unprecedented 18-year tenure as head coach. Hughes racked up four Patriot League Coach of the Year awards, three conference championships and two NCAA championship berths on the way to becoming the most decorated figure in program history.
So when Schlosberg, 38, arrived to Annapolis, Md., after 14 years as an assistant at Notre Dame, he sought the retiring coach's advice for how to take Navy to even greater heights. Schlosberg wanted a better understanding of how he could implement his vision for the program with the foundation Hughes had already established to make the transition as smooth as possible.
"He held the Midshipmen in such high regard, and I knew coming in that I would have a hardworking group," Schlosberg said. "I knew I was going to have to get [the rowers] to buy into the program and my thoughts on how we were going to train and how we would reach the end goal we all wanted. I kind of shifted some things around, and [Hughes] kind of helped me with the process of becoming a head coach and what to expect from the Midshipmen."
In many ways, that meeting between the two was a way for Schlosberg to take the torch from Hughes and usher in a new era for Navy.
So far, Schlosberg seems well on his way to not only living up to Hughes' lofty standards but perhaps surpassing them one day. As a first-time head coach, Schlosberg has flourished in his new surroundings, leading the Midshipmen to their second consecutive Patriot League tournament championship May 13 for the first time in school history.
After Navy placed 19th out of 22 teams at the NCAA championships at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center in Gold River, Calif., May 27-29, Schlosberg wants to raise the bar for next season. Schlosberg is not one to back down from a challenge and welcomes any added pressure he may put on himself and his program.
"There would be some times this year where we really got beat and took our licks," Schlosberg said. "But to understand our speed and to get exposed to it, we can now adjust, and it's like, 'OK, that's a whole other level speed -- what can we do to get there?'"
At Notre Dame, Schlosberg learned what it took to thrive at a high level under former Navy mentor Martin Stone, who become the first head man in Notre Dame history in 1997. Schlosberg helped the Fighting Irish compile a program-record 10 Big East Conference titles in a row from 2004-13, earning a promotion from assistant coach to associate head coach along the way.
More importantly, there were countless teaching moments that prepared Schlosberg for the chance to guide his own program. For Schlosberg, those experiences were more than he could have hoped or imagined.
"Under Martin, I learned that no two days are the same, which is also true of my first year here at Navy," Schlosberg said. "I have learned that every place has its own set of challenges, so it is something I have grown used to as a coach. You just kind of have to navigate your way and figure out what works and does not work; it is sort of like a trial-and-error process, so to speak."
With a little bit of patience and continued growth from himself and his rowers, he thinks a similar run to the one he was a part of at Notre Dame is attainable for the Midshipmen. But Schlosberg said it will require some patience.
"On a bigger, broader scope, I think we have to push the program into the top 25, then into the top 20 and then push into the top 10 or top 15," Schlosberg said. "What I know is that each step, each tier, it gets harder and harder and harder to run up the ranks. So this goal is one that is going to take time, and I think we have to look at it like, 'Why can't we?'"
Even at an early age, Schlosberg demonstrated leadership skills well beyond his years. In 2000, he graduated from Big Ten contender Northwestern, where he competed for the crew team. He captained the Wildcats to the Midwest Sprints and Big Ten spring championship as a sophomore.
After graduation, he spent a year serving as an assistant for Northwestern. Schlosberg worked with the men's novice team and assisted with both the men's and women's varsity teams, coming up with workout routines and overseeing all of the rowing equipment.
To this day, even with all his success, Schlosberg looks back on his humble beginnings with fond memories while embracing the rigorous path ahead at Navy.
"Being here now and having this first year under my belt at Navy, it's just been a very long, tough and rewarding journey," Schlosberg said. "I'm just really excited to see what the future holds and where this can go. I honestly think anything is possible here, because we have such a great staff and great rowers who really are committed."
Issue 222: June 2016