Michele Cornish’s going to be spending a lot less time at the gas pump.
Cornish has lived on the campus of Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault for years, but has been making the 100-mile roundtrip commute to St. Paul as head coach of the Macalester College women’s soccer coach since 2012.
Now, she won’t even need four wheels to get to work. Cornish accepted the position of athletics director at SSM beginning May 1.
“I can walk or ride my bike or suppose even ski if the conditions are right,” Cornish said with a laugh, referencing the recent spate of wintry weather.
This will be Cornish’ first athletics administration job after a career in coaching.
In soccer, Cornish was an assistant coach at Macalester in 1991, an assistant at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, from 1994-2010 and coached SSM girls soccer from 2010-12.
Approaching nearly three decades of coaching, Cornish is eager to move on to a new phase in her career.
“I’m pretty much hanging up my cleats. I’m very happy about that; it’s time,” Cornish said. “There are people who are far more passionate coaching at the school in their particular sports than I am at this point. I’m ready for a change, ready to use my brain in a different way.”
There are still parallels of coaching that can apply to administration.
“You’re still leading people like you lead a team,” Cornish said. “Hopefully patience plays into it, empathy, humility, all of those things that you need to be with regard to leading a team of college kids, that’s mostly my experience.”
As convicted as Cornish is in her decision now, she was initially hesitant.
“(SSM president) Nick Stoneman approached me about a year ago about this position. At the time, I really didn’t have a whole lot of interest in jumping ship with regard to coaching. That kind of planted a little bit of a seed, as things like that do, and one thing led to another and I was interviewing and was offered the job.
“I don’t want to say that it’s a natural progression for coaches to end up in administration because a lot of people do end up coaching their entire lives without ever having done any sort of administrative work. So it wasn’t ever really something I saw myself doing, but I guess the time was right to make the jump, to make the switch.”
Cornish isn’t planning to make sweeping changes once she steps in.
“It’s always dangerous to come into a situation and have all of these ideas and plans because 99 percent of them are put to the side because you find out they aren’t even possible,” Cornish said. “...it’s really going to be me getting in and having some conversations with the people who are involved and find out ‘What are their needs? What are the things that need to be corrected? What are some things maybe we need to think outside the box on?’”
The upcoming summer gives Cornish the opportunity to acclimate without the hustle and bustle of classes underway, though she’ll keep plenty busy with recruiting for the school’s four Center of Excellence sports.
Cornish will immerse herself again in a school where her children, Cameron (‘16) and Cheyney (‘19), attended. She’s familiar with the school’s staff and community in ways that could not be achieved from 50 miles away.
“At Macalester, it was a wonderful opportunity and I learned a lot, but the commute really didn’t allow me to really sort of feel like I had a community around me. I think Shattuck’s always been that for me, and I miss it.”