Her grandfather, Frank Szymanski Sr., coached basketball.
Her father, Frank Szymanski Jr., is still going strong as athletic director and head baseball coach at Chesapeake College.
So it only seemed natural for Alli Szymanski to get into the family business.
“Coaching kind of runs in my family, as does just a love for sports in general,” said Alli Szymanski, who was recently named Easton High’s new head field hockey coach. “I have always taken a leadership role on our teams. I was captain at St. Mary’s (College) my senior year. So leadership in sports is something that I’ve always just been interested in.
“It was just kind of sad for me when I came to the realization at the end of my senior year of field hockey (at St. Mary’s) that it was going to be over,” Szymanski continued. “So I was always trying to find ways to stay involved with this sport in general just because it’s a sport that I love.”
The 2013 Easton High graduate has remained involved.
Szymanski played all four years at St. Mary’s — mostly as a midfielder — before graduating in 2017. Choosing to pursue her master’s at St. Mary’s, she approached Seahawks head coach Jessica Lanham about being a possibly graduate assistant. The field hockey program had no such position, so Lanham got the OK to name Szymanski full-time assistant.
“That was my first step into coaching at the collegiate level,” Szymanski said.
She has taken more steps, coaching the Kent Island-based Team Chesapeake U-16 travel team for the past two winters and last summer. Szymanski was set to coach again this summer had the COVID-19 pandemic not canceled the season.
Now a ninth-grade English teacher at Easton High, Szymanski was an assistant for the Warriors junior varsity last fall, then applied for the head varsity position when Debbie McQuaid decided to retire from education this summer.
“I knew Alli Szymanski really wanted to be a head coach,” said McQuaid, who coached Szymanski in travel ball while she was in high school. “She’s young, and it’s like, ‘Why not before she goes somewhere else? Just go ahead and turn the program over to her.’ I know turning it over to her was going to be seamless, and I wasn’t going to be leaving them in a lurch. She’s eager and she’ll take it up a notch.”
Szymanski takes over a program that went 24-18 during McQuaid’s three years as head coach.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” Szymanski said. “It was definitely a really great opportunity. Debbie was my travel coach when I was in high school. So it was cool to be able to play for her then coach with her, and now kind of follow her steps and take this position after she trained me, not only as a player, but last year she definitely gave me a lot of coaching mentorship, too. So that was awesome as well.”
Szymanski said the coaching opportunities she received at the club, high school and collegiate levels has allowed her to see the game in a different way and formulate her own style.
“I think through the mentorship of coach Jess at St. Mary’s I was able to develop my own coaching style,” Szymanski said. “While I was the assistant at Easton, that was really awesome. And then being able to then further be a head coach for Team Chesapeaake I was able to develop the things that I knew as a player, but then taking a step back and looking at the field and learning that new perspective as a coach.
“As a coach I actually like to build from the front, so I’m more offensive-minded,” Szymanski continued. “I don’t like to be reactive. I like to play offense. And I think that going in with a mindset of always teaching the girls to have a mindset of, ‘You are a strong player, you’re a strong team’, and not being afraid of anybody and making sure that the other team is more so intimidated by you. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Early and often’ in regards to shooting and scoring and making sure we’re in the cage early and often.”
Szymanski, will preach patience, self confidence and having confidence in your teammates. And while Easton’s new head coach desires a winning record, she also wants to develop players that will be able to compete in college.
“That has always been one of my biggest goals, which is why I got into coaching travel ball,” Szymanski said. “I have seen the connections and things I have made through collegiate ball and I think there is great potential at Easton. There are so many girls that have the potential to make it to the college level.”
Though she knows the fall high school season could get postponed or canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Szymanski has given her players summer workout packets and is preparing as if the season will be played.
“I’m just kind of full steam ahead until I hear otherwise,” Szymanski said.
Szymanski noted a lot of her coaching inspiration is linked to being a teacher and working with kids.
“My mom, Colleen Szymanski, inspired me to work with kids as she has been a teacher for 21 years in Talbot County and three years in Baltimore County,” Alli wrote in a text.
As for coaching tips she has received from her father, Alli said she has garnered a lot.
“He has taught me the importance of building trust and building a relationship with your players,” Alli said of her father. “He has taught me the importance of staying patient and having a process and being prepared. He has also just taught me like the love of the game. If you’re going to be in it then you’re in it, and you give it 100 percent. And he’s taught me that as a player and as a coach, so I think that has brought me to where I am today, especially in my coaching career.”