As the Ohio State pistol team opens its 2015-16 season, there is a new head coach leading the team’s quest for a third straight national championship.
Donna Knisley, who had served as an assistant pistol coach for 15 years prior to being promoted to head coach in early May, has made a few small adjustments since switching over to her new role.
“I’ve been having us shoot fewer full practice matches right now because our season is very long,” Knisley said. “I find myself working more one-on-one right now throughout the day when they are available to come in, and we work on one event usually.”
As far as maintaining the focus of the group, Knisley said that it might be tough following back-to-back national titles.
“They can put an awful lot of stress on themselves, or expectations I should say, because they have won two, and it’s like, ‘well, we have to win three,’” Knisley said. “But the way I have to do it is one shot at a time, one match at a time, that sort of thing.”
Before joining the Buckeyes’ pistol staff in 2000, Knisley won the 1993 Ohio State Championship in air pistol as a student, and taught pistol and rifle in different settings.
In her years as assistant pistol coach, Knisley picked up plenty of advice from former head coach James Sweeney, who retired after last season following 30 years on the OSU pistol staff.
“I guess one of the biggest things he always used to say to me is ‘don’t cut your nose off to spite your face,’” Knisley said. “In other words, think before you speak, be patient and look at things from other perspectives before you make any major decisions.”
Third-year captain Elizabeth Szalajko, who is serving as the team’s lone “senior” because of her plans to graduate in the spring, said she believes the team is in good hands with Knisley at the helm.
“She’s been around the program for 15 years, so she knows how to coach, what to coach, and she’s continuing to do that,” Szalajko said. “The program has been great for the last two years, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
Sophomore shooter Irina Andrianova, who won the individual national title in women’s open pistol as a freshman a season ago, also sees Knisley as a good fit to take over the team.
“She brings us together,” Andrianova said. “She’s like a mother, she takes care of us.”
Although this will be her first year as the official head coach of the team, Knisley did pick up some head coaching experience last year at nationals after Sweeney fell ill.
The pistol team is scheduled to continue its season on Friday and Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with events at the Olympic Training Center.