OSWEGO — Mark Digby recently made a transition within the two varsity hockey programs at Oswego State.
After nine years with the men’s hockey team, the Fulton native and current Oswego resident is switching over to the women’s program, starting with the upcoming 2019-20 season. He’ll take on the title of associate head coach as he joins Head Coach Diane Dillon’s staff.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” he said. “When I think I’ve been here with the men’s program for nine years now, when an opportunity came up for a new challenge, I think it was fun for me to take on something new.”
Dillon said she is looking forward to adding Digby’s presence to the women’s hockey program.
“We’re very excited about this. Mark is going to be a great addition,” she said. “He really is excited to begin working on the women’s side and offer his vast knowledge of the game.”
Digby graduated from G. Ray Bodley High School in 2001 and played on Fulton’s varsity hockey team for three seasons. He moved on to play college hockey with Brockport State for four seasons, where he also graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2005 and a master’s degree in 2008.
Once the next women’s hockey campaign rolls around, Digby will begin his 15th season of coaching the sport. Digby started out coaching with the Brockport High School team for a season. He followed up by coaching with Brockport State men’s hockey for four seasons then moved on to his nine years with the Laker men’s team.
The title of “associate head coach” has a lot of meaning behind it. Digby said he believes the position is the next step in him leading the pack for a program down the road.
“I’d like to be a head coach someday,” he said. “(The title) is a way to honor the experience I bring to the table. I’ve been coaching hockey for almost 15 years, so this is a nice transition.”
Being with the men’s program for almost a decade, Digby knew he wanted to take on his new role with the women’s team once the opportunity arose.
“For me to come over here (to the women’s program) is something I wanted so I can help Coach Dillon build upon what she’s already started here,” he said.
Digby briefly coached the Laker women’s team a couple of years ago when Dillon was on a leave of absence due to a death in the family.
“I loved it and I think the players had a lot of fun,” Digby said. “I’m sure now there will be some differences, but hockey is hockey.”
Digby hasn’t had ice time with the women’s team yet, but has been busy with recruiting. He’s had years of recruiting experience with the men’s program, but he’s starting fresh with women’s hockey.
“It’s a different animal (on the women’s side),” he said. “On the men’s side I’m already established. On the women’s side, I get to be the rookie all over again. You have to earn your stripes and get the respect from other coaches.”
Digby was an assistant coach for the Laker men’s team for almost half of the years Coach Ed Gosek has been the head coach of the Laker icemen (17 seasons). Digby built a strong bond as Gosek’s assistant. Gosek said it was unfortunate to see Digby leave his staff, but added he is excited for Digby’s switch to the women’s team.
“I think he and I are the same in that we like the consistency we’ve been able to have over the years,” Digby said. “Anytime you have two people where you’re basically with that person for six or seven days a week, after a while you learn their actions and what they think before they even think of it. It just allows for a lot of autonomy.
“I don’t think he was excited for me to leave from that standpoint, but he’s excited for me to build on what I’ve already done here.”
Despite Digby’s departure from the men’s program, he is confident Jon Whitelaw — a former Laker hockey standout and Gosek’s new right-hand man — will keep the wheels turning in the coaching staff.
“Having Jon here and knowing what we do is good,” Digby said. “We’re best friends so I think that’ll help in his transition and keep the consistency going.”
Digby has taken strides over the years to become a head coach. Being at the helm of a program is one of his top goals for the future. He also, however, wants to ensure his family is part of the Oswego community.
“I think long term, my goal is to keep my family here in Oswego,” he said. “The community has been so supportive of me since I’ve stepped on campus.
“Even though I’m a transplant to Fulton, the Oswego community has really welcomed me in.”
Dillon added, “Mark is anchored in Oswego and he loves the town. He knows the town very well and he’s been part of the experience with Coach Gosek. Mark has embraced the community.”
Dillon is aware of Digby’s goals, and the position of “associate head coach” could put the gears in motion.
“Mark wants to be a head coach and this is a way for him to stay in Oswego,” Dillon said. “It’s a way for him to pursue those goals.”