There is a youth movement going on in the coaching ranks at Southern Illinois University.
A member of the millennial generation, Danielle Kaufman is the latest to join the ranks of young head coaches as she was introduced as the new Saluki women's head coach earlier this summer.
But more than being a young gun, Kaufman is the complete package and someone whos stock is rising -- and rising fast.
A 2003 graduated of Nashville High School, where she was Southern Illinois co-Golfer Of the Year, Kaufman spent two seasons at Rend Lake College, racking up
All-Region and All-American honors in 2004. She then spent two seasons at SIU, playing for legendary head coach Diane Daugherty, from 2007 and 2008.
Kaufman's golf game didn't stop after graduation and neither did her passion and desire for Saluki athletics. Among be- ing a teaching professional, Kaufman re- turned to Rend Lake College for two years and led the Warriors to a top-15 finish at the NJCAA National Tournament in 2018 and was named Region 24 Coach of the Year.
Now, she returns to what she now calls her "dream job" and whose hire has raised a lot of eyebrows with compliments and fan fare.
The 33-year-old, who will be helped out this year by her assistant Madison Burgett, sat down for a Question & Answer to talk
about her goals as a head coach at SIU, the overnight success she's enjoyed and what it's like to be a part of the club of local, young coaches at SIU.
Question: What are your expectations or what are you hoping to achieve as head coach at SIU?
Danielle Kaufman: Overall, I think what anyone wants here is to win the Missouri Valley Conference. That's obviously our top goal and what we want to do. I also want these girls to have the best experience they can at this university. So, providing them that and giving them any instruction, confidence, or anything like that, I can as a coach is what I'll try to do to get them to that point.
What They Are Saying"I have all the confidence that Danielle will do a great job at SIU. She was just as fiery as a player as I know she will be as a coach. The say dynamite comes in small packages and I have no doubt, Danielle will bring the boom to SIU."
-- Former RLC head coach Cindy Corn
"I am thrilled Danielle will be taking over the golf program. Danielle is part of the SIU women's golf family, and I am so excited for her and the team."
-- SIU Hall-of-Fame coach Diane Daugherty
"Danielle will be a recruiting machine. She's very enthusiastic and a fantastic golf coach. We did our homework on this hire and talked to Dr. Charlotte West and Diane Daugherty. Danielle comes highly recommended. Diane is an important part of our program and will be a great resource for Danielle. We feel that both our golf programs are in great shape moving forward."
-- Southern Illinois AD Jerry Kill
"I think Danielle is such a hard worker and she has an enormous amount of energy. I share an office suite with her and she has been busting her tail ever since she got here. She has an infectious personality and she knows what she is doing and I think she will go out and get some quality kids to play here. She's an extremely hard worker that you just enjoy being around."
-- SIU head softball coach Kerri Blaylock
Q: Talk about your path of getting here, it has been a pretty successful one for you.
DK: I've been all over. I've been a golf professional many places. All the way from TBC River's Bend (Cincinnati) to Greenbriar Hills Country Club (Kirkwood, Mo.) and then I made my way back into coach- ing which is what I've always wanted to do. I coached at Indiana University East and Rend Lake and now I'm here where I've always wanted to be, to be honest. This is where my goal was, to be at SIU.
Q: How early did that goal start?
DK: Well, earlier than I thought. I didn't know Alexis O'Brien was leaving, but I knew if that was ever going to be something to happen then I would definitely want to give it a shot to see if I could get this position.
Q: You getting the position was met with a lot of fanfare. (SIU athletic director) Jerry Kill was very adamant about hiring you and and obviously (former women's golf coach) Diane Daugherty has had nothing but nice things to say about you.
DK: You know, they talk about it all the time. The "family tree" and I'm a part of that family tree. I was coached by Diane and Denny Kortkamp is apart of this. Coach Kill and I had some really good conversations and it just kind of led into me getting the position.
Q: Diane is not long re- moved from being a head coach but talk about bringing her back into the mix and what that will entail?
DK: Diane is involved in anything and everything she wants to be involved in. I think she's very important because my coaching techniques I've learned a lot from her. I take what she gave me and I put it together and she's been a big part of that and Denny Kortkamp as well. Diane was inspiring to me when I was here. She inspired me to be a better per- son, better player, just anything and everything involved with life. She was that person that always has been there for me in a positive way.
Q: There is kind of a youth movement going on around here right now with (SIU head coach Nick Hill), (SIU men's golf coach) Justin Fetcho, and now yourself. There's also this local movement: Nick from DuQuoin and Justin from El- dorado. Talk a little abut that.
DK: I think that goes back to the family tree that coach Kill always talks about. I think be- ing local, you just know the area and it's easier for recruiting and bring kids in to better under- stand the university and what it's all about. I think it's important to have someone locally because you're not in a big city and you are in a small town and it's nice to have people who know what it's all about.
Q: Is it exciting to be apart of something like that?
DK: Oh yeah, it's fantastic. I can't ask for a better place to be with some of the best people I've ever met. Coach Kill is awe- some. I couldn't ask for a better AD.
Q: Let's look at the season, it's early and you have to get yourself established and set the tone. What realistically would you like to see happen in this first year?
DK: Realistically, win the MVC. I've got some girls right now that are top players who are shooting some great scores and qualifying. I truthfully think that if I can get my four and five to jump up and com- pete with them I think we have a very good chance at an MVC title. Top three for sure. Definitely an opportunity.
Spyder Dann covers college and prep sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.