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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Alumni presence indicates Track team’s appeal

Published: January 25, 2008
Section: Sports

Evaluating sports programs is not always as easy as it seems, especially at the Division III collegiate level. Athletic directors across the country are faced with making difficult decisions with regards to hiring their coaching staff. They are obligated to set the foundation of what will make their school unique from all of the others by prioritizing certain athletic characteristics. Then, they must ask themselves the question: What are we looking for in a coach? Does our school want to make winning our sole priority?

While the winning percentage of any given team is certainly a valid way to evaluate any sports program, does it really illustrate the quality of the program to the fullest extent? Probably not. I have been on plenty of winning teams where the majority of the players were miserable because the coaches were oblivious to the fact that people want to have fun when they are playing sports.

Instead of concentrating on winning then, other athletic directors may decide to ensure their student athletes that their programs will offer them a fun and enjoyable experience. However, contrary to every little league coach’s belief, I don’t think many student athletes truly believe that sports should solely be about having fun either. Besides, show me a losing team and I can almost guarantee you that the members of the team are not having as much fun as they would if they were winning.

Being able to balance the concepts of winning and having fun are traits that are truly essential in the world of Division III sports. However, there is something else that should be offered in the world of sports, other than just these two attributes. The relationships that student athletes are able to build with their teammates and the memories that are created because of these relationships, are features that should be incorporated into every Division III sports program.

The next question that athletic directors must ask themselves is, how can we evaluate whether or not our coaches are providing our student athletes with the opportunity to build life-lasting relationships with their teammates and with the members of their coaching staff? While this appears as though it would be a challenging question for any athletic director to answer, the solution is really quite simple: Look at how many student athletes come to a game or an event as a spectator once they graduate. Surely, any person who would return to watch their team must have had an enjoyable experience, one where they were able to build strong relationships with their fellow team members.

As a former member of the Brandeis University Baseball team and current member of the Track team, I have attended my fair share of Brandeis sporting events. I frequently attend other Brandeis sporting affairs as well, including soccer, basketball and softball games, most notably.

While this article is in no way attempting to diminish the values of the other sports programs that are offered at Brandeis, this past weekend I witnessed the most impressive aspect of Brandeis sports that I have seen in my four years at the University. There were at least seven former members of the track team who came to our meet to cheer on their former teammates and coaching staff.

I have never seen any other sports program at Brandeis have as many former members attend a single sporting event, when they were not being honored or commemorated in some capacity, since enrolling in 2004. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that none of these former track athletes arrived together, as they all showed up expecting to be the lonesome ex-members of the track team amongst the crowd. In my humble opinion, this strong display of support speaks volumes about the Brandeis University track coaching staff.

While the attendance of these former athletes at our most recent meet clearly demonstrates that the Brandeis track program offers its athletes a fun experience where they can build long-lasting relationships, in an indiscreet way, their presence also helped the team succeed. Personally, I found myself running a little bit harder just because I knew my three former captains were cheering from the crowd. I didn’t want to let them down and I would imagine that their company served as an inspiration for many of the other Brandeis track runners as well.

Most Division III sports programs are unable to provide their student athletes with a coaching staff that is capable of bringing all of the essential characteristics that comprise the term sport. However, thanks to an athletic director who spotted an exceptional coaching staff, the Brandeis track team breaks this mold.