Teaching at College Prep
: Three years
What was your path to Athletic Director at College Prep?
I’ve been an educator for over 25 years. My first job out of college, though, was in a corporate position. I was living at Thacher, a boarding school in Ojai, where my wife was a teacher. The corporation I worked for encouraged employees to do civic-minded activities, which I fulfilled by coaching baseball and helping with the community service program at Thacher. Ultimately, I realized that I liked working with students a whole lot more than my job, so I quit and pursued a master’s in education at UC Santa Barbara. Luckily, I was hired to teach English at Thacher, while continuing to coach. I served in many other roles during my 17-year tenure, and it was there that I first became an athletic director. I leapt at the opportunity to take on that role, because I gained so much while playing basketball through my high school years and baseball through my college years, and I loved the thought of taking on a job where I could help students get some of those same benefits. After Thacher, my wife and I spent 5 years at an independent school in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I was the athletic director of a much larger program. Large or small school, the goal was the same—to build students’ skills and character through a commitment to teamwork, dedication and perseverance. We loved our time in Charlottesville, but we’re happy to be back in California, and I’m especially happy to be at College Prep, working with our wonderful athletic department and coaches, and amazing students.
What is the purpose of athletics at College Prep?
Athletics is an integral part of the educational experience we offer here. Learning to cooperate and problem-solve with others, striving to improve yourself as part of the team, finding the grit needed to work hard throughout a season, and thoughtfully devoting yourself to a shared sense of purpose—these are all lasting life skills. When we do it right, we create meaningful experiences, wonderful memories, and long-lasting friendships. What’s more is that our athletic program provides balance for high achieving and ambitious students, by encouraging a healthy lifestyle and providing a great way to blow off steam and have fun with great teammates.
How does the sports program fit into the College Prep curriculum?
Our mission in the Athletic Department is to promote and teach students the lifelong values of sportsmanship, integrity, commitment, personal responsibility, teamwork, and self-discipline. Being on a sports team is a lot of fun, but it also involves a lot of time and effort, so it challenges our students to budget their time and plan ahead which are invaluable skills. Our interscholastic athletic program teams up with our Recreation Health and Fitness program to underscore the fact that physical fitness relieves stress, helps keep us healthy, and provides a sense of balance in our lives. Just like in the classroom where we promote the idea of taking academic risks and nurturing a growth mindset by working on areas where you might need improvement while also developing your natural strengths, we welcome students who have never tried a particular sport as well as those who have the skills and experience to play at the college level.
What attracts students to join a team?
Each student comes with different expectations. Some simply want to spend time with their friends; others to improve their skills in a sport they like; some want to try something new. We do have students who want to compete at a high level and are hoping to play in college. The trick is to have a program that accommodates all of these different expectations. A big part of the solution is that we have kind kids who are welcoming to teammates with all levels of talent and experience. Each team has different goals, but always among them is to get better, gel as a team, and have a fun experience together.
What are the key ingredients for a successful team?
We have a gym full of banners we’ve been collecting over the years—clearly we have achieved victory in terms of win-loss records and championships. I think, though, that having a group of athletes who enjoy being together with a positive attitude and a sense of shared purpose is what defines success here at Prep. Participants learn how they each fit in to the overall achievement of their team. They find a sense of value in sharing a season together and when they combine that with having respect for the opponents, the officials, and everyone involved in the experience, then they can fully enjoy a truly meaningful experience. In one of my favorite books about the significance of youth athletics, InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives, author Joe Ehrmann talks about the meaningful long-term impact that sports can have. He explains his definition of accomplishment as a high school football coach: “When my players come back and are committed husbands, partners, and friends, devoted fathers, empathic men of integrity, contributors and leaders on all levels in various communities—then I will know. People often ask what kind of success my team will have this season. I tell them I will let them know in twenty years.” We feel the same; College Prep’s athletics program teaches lessons that can last a lifetime.
How do alumni stay connected to CPS through athletics?
Our coaches love it when former players drop in to let us know how they’re doing, and fortunately that happens pretty often. Some join our regularly scheduled open gym time for pick-up basketball and volleyball games which help our current student-athletes practice and hone their skills. Others help out during preseason practices. Just this fall, for example, Vasco Villas-Boas ’16 and Christian Dawkins ’18 joined coaches Godwin Odiye and Sebastian Osei on the soccer pitch for a few practices. Alumni volleyballers, Connor Hum ’14, Daiana Takashima ’16, and Claudia Chung ’16 helped out during the preseason this fall, and joined forces with a couple of College Prep alumnae who have come back to their alma mater full-time: Johanna Lanner-Cusin ’99 teaches history and is the Head Coach for the girls’ varsity volleyball team in the fall and the boys’ varsity volleyball team in the spring, and Monica (Bradley) Lyman ’83 joined College Prep as the school secretary this year, and is also coaching the JV girls’ volleyball team. Like other recent alumni coaches, Eva Campadonico ’95 (cross country), Kyle Guthrie ’98 (basketball) and Nelson Reynolds ’06 (basketball), they took on coaching positions at College Prep largely because they loved their time here as student-athletes. Each recognize how much they gained from their participation, and welcome the opportunity to help the next generation of Cougars enjoy a wonderful experience as student-athletes at College Prep.