Fighting to keep your job or preserve your program can be soul-crushing. Our losses are painful and public – there for everyone to see. At the same time our victories – out of fear that they are simply luck or merely temporary - remain hidden and are rarely acknowledged. That means we only learn from our failures. This month, however, I met several coaches whose efforts are having a transformative effect in their department and on their campus. Of these, I’d like to share three examples who illustrate the influence that each of us can create.
Example number one - Quint Seckler. Two years ago, he took over an Adams State program that had just eliminated their men’s. When he inquired about the possibility of reestablishing the team on his interview the response was "Let's wait and see." That didn't deter Quint. He went about rebuilding the roster. He created a culture of positivity that was evident on deck. He made swimming an asset instead of an eyesore. The administration knew a good thing when they saw it just gave Quinn the green light. Next Fall Adams State will become just the third state university to add men's swimming since 2012.
Example number two - Rick Walker. Last month we gave Rick a shout for successfully endowing a scholarship, but his impact runs deeper than money. Two years ago, SIU was facing significant budget cuts. With a large roster and no affiliation to the Missouri Valley Conference, eliminating swimming and diving would have been the obvious choice. When that same team is your best performing sport on the field, in the classroom, through student-athlete evaluations and donor giving it isn’t an easy choice. The Saluki’s reduced scholarships, but today their donors are building them back and they have an Athletic Director who has vowed to go to his grave to defend the team.
Eliminating swimming and diving would have been the obvious choice. When that same team is your best performing sport on the field, in the classroom, through student-athlete evaluations and donor giving it isn’t an easy choice.
Finally, there’s Nate Rothmann. A year ago, Colorado Mines was a place we had great concerns and ranked high on our threat list, Nate took the challenge head on. “We made it a point of pride to be the best team in every department metric.” They were a force at every team’s games. They led the department in community service hours. They made calls for the annual fund and put their hand up every time a campus committee was forming. A year later, “the environment has changed completely.” They’re more than safe, they’re the standard. “Our kids are recognized as leaders, they’re having fun, and the connections they’re making are filling our stands.”
We’ve all heard Margaret Mead’s famous quote "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” These three coaches show that it is possible.