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Kendra Tomsic: Coaching Students to Win at Life

Rowland Hall Director of Athletics Kendra Tomsic loves sports and wants other people to love them too. 

“I’ve always loved sports. I knew from a very young age that this was what I wanted to do. Not be an athletic director—I didn’t know what that was—but I knew I wanted to be involved in sports in some way,” Kendra said. “I’m a pre-Title IX woman so at that time to even want to go into a profession that was related to sports was a pretty big deal.”

Kendra made it her mission to get as many people involved in sports as possible. She expanded the Athletics Department to include more sports and recruit more kids to play them. She pushed for more inclusion in athletics at the state level. She also worked to make it clear that sports aren’t just about winning and losing, but how they shape you as a person.

In the course of her career, Kendra has made it her mission to get as many people involved in sports as possible, and for them to reap the benefits that come from being an athlete. Over her more than three decades at Rowland Hall, she has expanded the Athletics Department to include more sports and recruit more kids to play them. She pushed for more inclusion in athletics at the state level, working tirelessly to expand options for those who want to play. Kendra has also worked to make it clear that sports aren’t just about winning and losing, but how they shape you as a person. 

“The focus wasn’t on banners and trophies,” she said. “They’re nice and we loved getting them, but the focus was on developing kids that could go out into the world and be contributing adults.”

Unsurprisingly, banners and trophies are not the first thing Kendra’s former players bring up when asked about her either. In fact, they are hardly mentioned at all, though there are plenty of them hanging on the walls of the gym and stacked in cases around the school. Kendra’s former volleyball and softball athletes would rather discuss the life lessons Kendra taught them than the games she helped them win. 

“She cared about you not only as an athlete but also as a person,” said former volleyball player Robyn Jensen ’02.  “She was invested in developing my skills both on and off the court. Above all she wanted me to be a good person.”

Kendra not only built strong players, but strong people as well. “​​She taught me the value of putting in the hard work and celebrating regardless of whether you win, and learning from the times that you don’t,” said volleyball player Becky Webster ’03.

Kendra Tomsic with Rowland Hall's volleyball team.

Kendra, far left, with the Rowland Hall volleyball team, 1990s.


The athletes Kendra coached were better able to overcome limitations and were pushed to levels they didn’t think possible, but always in a way that was never uncomfortable or trying.

“There was something about the way she coached that made me think I could do it even if I knew I couldn’t,” said Chloe Coleman-Houghton ’20, who played both softball and volleyball. “She had a passion behind the way that she coached. It fed the students and made them more passionate about what they were doing.”

She always said when you put on your uniform, when you put on your shoes to come out here, start fresh, wipe your attitude clean, and focus on being present.—Megan Andrews ’03

Chloe’s sister, softball and volleyball player Harper Lundquist ’16, also benefited from Kendra’s encouragement. “She told me I was limiting myself. When she said that, I realized what I was doing,” she said. “That was powerful.”

Developing individual athletes was important to Kendra, but she also worked hard at turning them into teams. It wasn’t just about spending time at practices and games; she encouraged students to spend time at team dinners, outings, and breakfasts at Village Inn. Many of her players said this not only made them teams but also family. 

“She put the responsibility of team building in our hands. We weren’t just players playing for her—we were playing for each other,” said volleyball player Sara Matsumura ’16. “She was there to help us get through the game but allowed us the space to make our own friendships and bond.”

The lessons learned from Kendra made these students better athletes and better teammates, as well as gave them life skills they carry with them today. Volleyball player Megan Andrews ’03 said she learned to be more resilient and not let a single aspect of her life get in the way of other tasks and priorities. 

“She always said when you put on your uniform, when you put on your shoes to come out here, start fresh, wipe your attitude clean, and focus on being present,” Megan said. “I’ve revisited that as an adult. Whatever just happened I can take it, set it aside, and be ready for what’s next.”

Rowland Hall softball coach Kendra Tomsic during her final year as director of athletics, 2023–2024.

Kendra coaching softball during her final year as director of athletics.


Former volleyball team manager Gita Varner ’05 learned about self-acceptance from Kendra. “She wanted us to not only be nice, welcoming people to others, but also to ourselves,” she said. “I think having a role model that was comfortable with who she is was super inspirational.”

Inspirational is a word heard a lot when talking about Kendra, and it comes not only from her players but also from the coaches who have worked alongside her. Zack Alvidrez will take over as director of athletics when Kendra retires and said he plans to build on her legacy of being both a competitive coach and a compassionate one. And he is glad that she will continue to coach volleyball so he can continue to watch and learn. 

“I love watching her on the sidelines when she’s locked in and chomping on her gum,” he said. “But you know that while she’s pushing her team to be competitive they all know they have an ally in her and that she will always be there for them.”

Assistant volleyball coach and health and wellness teacher Lauren Carpenter also enjoys watching Kendra on the sidelines as she balances her competitive drive with her desire to foster skills and build confidence. “Kendra, almost to a fault, will leave kids in because she’s so optimistic they are going to get it right,” she said. “I think the thing that sets her apart from a lot of coaches is that she sets her ego aside. She wants to win; she’s a competitor. But she would never put a win over the kids loving and enjoying the game.“

The love of the game was and is the most important thing for Kendra. If she saw an athlete who wanted to play, she worked to make sure they could. It wasn’t always an easy task, but it was one she was willing to take on. 

Rowland Hall owes a huge debt of gratitude to Kendra. We are lucky to have had her here for 32 years, and we are even luckier to see the impacts of her work for decades to come.—Mick Gee, head of school

“There is no question that female athletes are now treated more equally in the state of Utah because of Kendra,” said former Head of School Alan Sparrow. “She was a real force inside the Utah High School Activities Association, where she was incredibly diplomatic with people who weren’t always open to hearing the need for promoting women’s sports.” 

Now that Kendra is retiring from her role as director of athletics, she plans to spend more time enjoying athletic pursuits instead of organizing and overseeing them. She said she’s looking forward to long hikes, playing golf, going for bike rides, and reading books that have nothing to do with sports or sports psychology. She also will still be on the sidelines coaching volleyball and softball, creating the next generation of not just great athletes, but people the world needs. 

“Rowland Hall owes a huge debt of gratitude to Kendra,” said Head of School Mick Gee. “We are lucky to have had her here for 32 years, and we are even luckier to see the impacts of her work for decades to come.”


Editor's note: Please review this year's Fond Farewells for a full list of departing faculty and staff.

People

Kendra Tomsic: Coaching Students to Win at Life

Rowland Hall Director of Athletics Kendra Tomsic loves sports and wants other people to love them too. 

“I’ve always loved sports. I knew from a very young age that this was what I wanted to do. Not be an athletic director—I didn’t know what that was—but I knew I wanted to be involved in sports in some way,” Kendra said. “I’m a pre-Title IX woman so at that time to even want to go into a profession that was related to sports was a pretty big deal.”

Kendra made it her mission to get as many people involved in sports as possible. She expanded the Athletics Department to include more sports and recruit more kids to play them. She pushed for more inclusion in athletics at the state level. She also worked to make it clear that sports aren’t just about winning and losing, but how they shape you as a person.

In the course of her career, Kendra has made it her mission to get as many people involved in sports as possible, and for them to reap the benefits that come from being an athlete. Over her more than three decades at Rowland Hall, she has expanded the Athletics Department to include more sports and recruit more kids to play them. She pushed for more inclusion in athletics at the state level, working tirelessly to expand options for those who want to play. Kendra has also worked to make it clear that sports aren’t just about winning and losing, but how they shape you as a person. 

“The focus wasn’t on banners and trophies,” she said. “They’re nice and we loved getting them, but the focus was on developing kids that could go out into the world and be contributing adults.”

Unsurprisingly, banners and trophies are not the first thing Kendra’s former players bring up when asked about her either. In fact, they are hardly mentioned at all, though there are plenty of them hanging on the walls of the gym and stacked in cases around the school. Kendra’s former volleyball and softball athletes would rather discuss the life lessons Kendra taught them than the games she helped them win. 

“She cared about you not only as an athlete but also as a person,” said former volleyball player Robyn Jensen ’02.  “She was invested in developing my skills both on and off the court. Above all she wanted me to be a good person.”

Kendra not only built strong players, but strong people as well. “​​She taught me the value of putting in the hard work and celebrating regardless of whether you win, and learning from the times that you don’t,” said volleyball player Becky Webster ’03.

Kendra Tomsic with Rowland Hall's volleyball team.

Kendra, far left, with the Rowland Hall volleyball team, 1990s.


The athletes Kendra coached were better able to overcome limitations and were pushed to levels they didn’t think possible, but always in a way that was never uncomfortable or trying.

“There was something about the way she coached that made me think I could do it even if I knew I couldn’t,” said Chloe Coleman-Houghton ’20, who played both softball and volleyball. “She had a passion behind the way that she coached. It fed the students and made them more passionate about what they were doing.”

She always said when you put on your uniform, when you put on your shoes to come out here, start fresh, wipe your attitude clean, and focus on being present.—Megan Andrews ’03

Chloe’s sister, softball and volleyball player Harper Lundquist ’16, also benefited from Kendra’s encouragement. “She told me I was limiting myself. When she said that, I realized what I was doing,” she said. “That was powerful.”

Developing individual athletes was important to Kendra, but she also worked hard at turning them into teams. It wasn’t just about spending time at practices and games; she encouraged students to spend time at team dinners, outings, and breakfasts at Village Inn. Many of her players said this not only made them teams but also family. 

“She put the responsibility of team building in our hands. We weren’t just players playing for her—we were playing for each other,” said volleyball player Sara Matsumura ’16. “She was there to help us get through the game but allowed us the space to make our own friendships and bond.”

The lessons learned from Kendra made these students better athletes and better teammates, as well as gave them life skills they carry with them today. Volleyball player Megan Andrews ’03 said she learned to be more resilient and not let a single aspect of her life get in the way of other tasks and priorities. 

“She always said when you put on your uniform, when you put on your shoes to come out here, start fresh, wipe your attitude clean, and focus on being present,” Megan said. “I’ve revisited that as an adult. Whatever just happened I can take it, set it aside, and be ready for what’s next.”

Rowland Hall softball coach Kendra Tomsic during her final year as director of athletics, 2023–2024.

Kendra coaching softball during her final year as director of athletics.


Former volleyball team manager Gita Varner ’05 learned about self-acceptance from Kendra. “She wanted us to not only be nice, welcoming people to others, but also to ourselves,” she said. “I think having a role model that was comfortable with who she is was super inspirational.”

Inspirational is a word heard a lot when talking about Kendra, and it comes not only from her players but also from the coaches who have worked alongside her. Zack Alvidrez will take over as director of athletics when Kendra retires and said he plans to build on her legacy of being both a competitive coach and a compassionate one. And he is glad that she will continue to coach volleyball so he can continue to watch and learn. 

“I love watching her on the sidelines when she’s locked in and chomping on her gum,” he said. “But you know that while she’s pushing her team to be competitive they all know they have an ally in her and that she will always be there for them.”

Assistant volleyball coach and health and wellness teacher Lauren Carpenter also enjoys watching Kendra on the sidelines as she balances her competitive drive with her desire to foster skills and build confidence. “Kendra, almost to a fault, will leave kids in because she’s so optimistic they are going to get it right,” she said. “I think the thing that sets her apart from a lot of coaches is that she sets her ego aside. She wants to win; she’s a competitor. But she would never put a win over the kids loving and enjoying the game.“

The love of the game was and is the most important thing for Kendra. If she saw an athlete who wanted to play, she worked to make sure they could. It wasn’t always an easy task, but it was one she was willing to take on. 

Rowland Hall owes a huge debt of gratitude to Kendra. We are lucky to have had her here for 32 years, and we are even luckier to see the impacts of her work for decades to come.—Mick Gee, head of school

“There is no question that female athletes are now treated more equally in the state of Utah because of Kendra,” said former Head of School Alan Sparrow. “She was a real force inside the Utah High School Activities Association, where she was incredibly diplomatic with people who weren’t always open to hearing the need for promoting women’s sports.” 

Now that Kendra is retiring from her role as director of athletics, she plans to spend more time enjoying athletic pursuits instead of organizing and overseeing them. She said she’s looking forward to long hikes, playing golf, going for bike rides, and reading books that have nothing to do with sports or sports psychology. She also will still be on the sidelines coaching volleyball and softball, creating the next generation of not just great athletes, but people the world needs. 

“Rowland Hall owes a huge debt of gratitude to Kendra,” said Head of School Mick Gee. “We are lucky to have had her here for 32 years, and we are even luckier to see the impacts of her work for decades to come.”


Editor's note: Please review this year's Fond Farewells for a full list of departing faculty and staff.

People

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