A Passion for Coaching

On and off the field, Cait Finn ’07 sees opportunity to impart more than just game-winning skills to student athletes.

by Joanie Eppinga

Cait Finn standing on a football field

Overhearing a conversation on the bus when she was 12, Cait Finn ‘07 made up her mind.

Finn had always liked watching football with her dad, and she played a bit in middle school. So she was struck to hear a girl on the bus say that people were making fun of her for also liking to play and claiming girls couldn’t be involved in football.

That conversation put steel in Finn’s spine. “No, we’re gonna do this!” she remembers thinking. “No one can say you can’t!”

Now Finn is doing it. She recently completed her first season as a defensive assistant coach for the football team at Hobart College, where she also works full time as the assistant director of leadership at The Centennial Center. That first season was successful: The team finished 9–2 and their defense ranked among the best in the nation in several statistical categories, including turnovers, interceptions, and scoring defense. Finn is thrilled.

“I love coaching people,” she says, “and football is a great conduit for that.” What she likes is building relationships and figuring out what makes her players tick, both on the field and in life.

“I love the idea that we can use sport with young people, not just to win games, but also to teach them to be better humans, teachers, parents, partners, and professionals,” she says.

The foundation for that whole-person approach came from her social work degree at Nazareth, Finn reports. “Those psychology and social work classes taught me how to work with others, to navigate conversations with other people, to sit with them in their struggles,” she explains. “Then you add all the critical thinking and creative problem solving, and walking onto that campus was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

When she started school at Nazareth, Finn was on crutches with a broken femur and was greatly missing athletics in her life. “It was a dark time for me,” she says, “and I didn’t know where I was headed.”

Some years after college, fitness put her on a path to discovering her life’s work. Finn began doing CrossFit (a form of high-intensity interval training), which led to weight training when her coach noticed she was a natural athlete and encouraged her to compete — which she ended up doing at the national level.

That led to her getting a master’s in exercise physiology and sports psychology from Ithaca College, after which she taught strength and conditioning there. She requested that football be part of her domain. Finn’s involvement grew as she connected with coaches, until finally she was offered her current job by the head coach at Hobart. And her success has been noticed: She was recently one of 40 women invited to attend the NFL’s 2020 Women’s Careers in Football Forum. “It was a phenomenal experience,” she says, “meeting those other women, hearing their stories, and helping to build a pipeline for women in football.”

Finn’s very happy to be part of that movement. Asked what would make her work even more rewarding, she says she’d like to design a job that would “be like social work, but in the field of athletics. I would love to continue to coach, but to take everything — leadership, sports psychology, nutrition, weight room — and bring that into a program for athletes. This is my passion.” Given what Finn has already accomplished, she’s likely to make it happen.

Joanie Eppinga is a writer and editor in Madison, Wisc.

Cait Finn teaching a class

As an assistant director at The Centennial Center, Cait coordinates the HWS Leads certificate program, serves as an instructor for courses, advises students, and facilitates campus-wide leadership programming.