Chesapeake College Head Coach Gwen Barnes was recently appointed Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Coaches Association President.
“This appointment is a great honor for Coach Barnes and well deserved,” said Chesapeake Director of Athletics Frank Szymanski. “She is an outstanding representative of Chesapeake College, an excellent leader and a great role model.”
The coach has consistently posted winning seasons and guided the team to regional championships. Barnes led the Skipjacks to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II women’s basketball championships in both 2018 and 2019.
Barnes’ leadership reaches beyond the court, too. She works to be a mentor to her players and encourages community involvement. Activities include acting as campus hosts during events and volunteering on Habitat for Humanity projects.
“I want every athlete to feel like they are part of a team, of course, but I also want them to see that they have a role in the broader community,” said Barnes. “That’s what I want them to take with them when they leave Chesapeake, and as they go through the different stages of their lives.”
As she begins her eighth season at the helm of the Skipjacks women’s program, Barnes is hopeful that the team will play a full season with post-season playoff chances. The squad will head into training this fall with a deep well of talent, according to the coach.
“Because of the pandemic, I haven’t had a chance to coach these players in competition. But there is so much talent on this team that I’m excited to see what we can do in a real reason,” Barnes said.
There has been steady change to collegiate athletics in the last two decades, but especially to women’s sports teams at all collegiate levels.
“There’s still work to do, but there has been a lot of progress in the last 20 years and I think that’s due to increased visibility for women’s sports,” Barnes said. “It used to be that girls in high school would get recruited and offered scholarships, and they were happy to get the chance to go to college and continuing their basketball careers. But that has changed.”
Prospects and their families look for programs that can provide a supportive environment on and off the court.
“I see players looking for a good fit. They ask themselves if they can gel with a team’s coaches and players. Are the academics a good fit? What is the overall environment? They are looking for opportunities to grow as athletes and scholars,” Barnes said. “This is a much better landscape for the student-athletes.”
It’s also a positive for Chesapeake College, the coach said.
“Chesapeake is already good at this. This is what we do and we do it well. Academics come first and we want them to be ready for their next steps when they finish here. Student athletes get a well-rounded experience with good outcomes, athletically and academically,” Barnes said. “Students are supported here. Everyone at Chesapeake is dedicated to the players’ academic success, athletic development and personal growth. Recruits can see that we’re authentic and work in their best interests.”
As a result, Chesapeake can attract the kind of talent and passion that boosts a program and wins championships. Despite the pandemic challenges that scuttled last season, Barnes has high hopes this year.
“We’ll be working for another regional championship and looking toward nationals,” Barnes said.
The 21-22 season kicks off with a scrimmage against Salisbury University on Oct. 24. The first home game will be on Nov. 9 when the Skipjacks take on Del Tech.
To learn more about Chesapeake College athletics, please visit https://www.letsgoskipjacks.