Over the last few years I’ve gotten this question A LOT: “So what do you want to do long term?” Ten percent of the time my answer has been “I have absolutely no idea.” The other ninety percent of the time my answer is “I’d love to be a sports director at a place like the YMCA.” I’ve always loved working with kids, having been a camp counselor for three summers. I also worked for a YMCA in college and absolutely loved it. Combine all of that with my love of sports and that’s how I narrowed down my future dream job to a sports director at a YMCA. With all that being said I’m excited to announce……
I am the new Youth Sports Director at the Chesterfield YMCA! It’s been a week since I accepted the job and it’s still hard to believe it’s real. It almost feels as if I spoke it into existence after telling people for years that this is the exact job I wanted. It’s also crazy how quickly it happened. Within a span of a week I applied for and accepted the job. That hasn’t given me a whole lot of time to process this upcoming change. I also haven’t had a lot of time to reflect on my time at Lindenwood. But that’s what this blog is for, right?
I first started at Lindenwood as a grad student. My last semester at Truman I realized that I didn’t want to pursue a career in psychology, which just so happened to be my major. That didn’t leave me with much time to figure out an alternative plan. So I started looking into masters programs that I might be interested in and I quickly settled on sports management. That seemed like a pretty natural fit. Now the question was where. I was pretty set on going back home to St. Louis, so I narrowed my search to the local area. That eventually led me to Lindenwood. It was perfect. It was close to home, the program wouldn’t take long, and I’d be able to start two weeks after graduating from Truman. It also didn’t hurt that I wasn’t required to take the GRE! And so that’s where I ended up. I initially started as just a student but was looking for a graduate assistant job. Unfortunately nothing materialized right away. After two months of no luck I did something bold and emailed the athletic director. I explained my situation and said I was looking for any kind of job in athletics. He referred me to the game day operations director, who just so happened to have a grad assistant position open. Long story short, I got the job. And the rest, as they say, is history. But allow me to share some of history!
This job was exactly what I was looking for. It was my first intro to the sports industry and an opportunity to learn a lot behind the scenes. One of the benefits of working at Lindenwood is that it’s a Division II school, meaning we don’t have a lot of specialized departments. We don’t have ticket sales, marketing, community relations, or operations departments like most Division I schools. That means I got a lot of hands-on experience in a variety of areas. On any given day I could be talking to a potential season ticket holder for football, creating a graphic to share on campus, communicating with a youth team to bring them out to a game, and then running a soccer game that night. I’ve gotten to wear a lot of different hats, giving me invaluable experience.
Lindenwood has quite a few sports. That means quite a few games. That means quite a few weeknights and weekends. Each year has been a grind. It’s a lot of long days and a lot of running around. It’s definitely been stressful at times with so much to ballance. I’ll be the first to admit I made mistakes. And it was exactly what I needed. It was a chance for me to learn and to grow. Every day was a new opportunity to learn something different.
However, this year’s grind started to take a toll. The long days, the weeknights, and the weekends were beginning to wear me down. Right out of college I didn’t mind all of that. I was happy to have a job in sports and a chance to learn the industry. Sometime along the way this year, though, I realized that this isn’t what I wanted to do long term. I was ready for a new opportunity, a new challenge. I have been struggling with a lack of fulfillment this year and gradually that feeling started to suffocate me. I wanted to be doing something where I was making a difference and helping people. For as much as I’ve enjoyed my time at Lindenwood I didn’t feel like I was best utilizing my talents. I knew I was capable of doing more, which only led me to grow more frustrated. I would check in on the job openings at the YMCA from time to time but to no avail. That all changed just a couple weeks ago.
As difficult as this year has been for me at times, I can’t express just how important Lindenwood has been to me over the last three years. I’ve learned so much, not just professionally but personally. I’ll remember a lot of the lessons I learned and the experiences I had. But most importantly I’ll remember the people. When I first started I was one of six grad assistants: Joe, Kyle, Chuck, David, Austin, and myself. Over the last two years it’s just been three of us: Austin, Bailey, and myself. With only three of us that put a lot of work on our plates. That caused the three of us to grow closer. The three of us went through a lot together and honestly they made the down times so much easier and so much more enjoyable. I owe so much to the two of them. I also owe a lot to the sports information guys: Blake, Mike, Cody, and Jake. We worked pretty closely with those guys and they were just fun to be around. Work is so much better when you work with friends – I’m so happy to say that was the case for me. I also can’t say how thankful I am for my two bosses, Mike and Tom. Those two have taught me so much it’s impossible to put it all into writing. They pushed me and motivated to be a better employee and a better man. They also trusted me through all of my mistakes and allowed me to grow. They gave me an opportunity and they guided me along the way. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Leaving anything is bittersweet. It’s even more so when you’ve grown so close to the people. There are countless things I’ll miss about Lindenwood: the summer barbecue tour, talking Cardinals baseball, joking about The Office, and so much more. Most importantly, though, I’ll miss the people. I’ve spent literally thousands of hours with these people. That’s not something you easily forget.
I like to think I’ve earned my new position at the YMCA. And I certainly have. But it would be wrong of me not to give credit where credit is due. Without the people at Lindenwood, especially Mike, Tom, Austin, and Bailey, I wouldn’t have been as prepared for this new journey in my life. I’m in a weird place where I’m excited for something new that’s about to happen while also appreciating something that’s about to be in my past. All I know is that God is so, so good. Without Him I wouldn’t have been guided to Lindenwood, and without Him I wouldn’t have grown so much while I was there. I mentioned earlier that it feels like I spoke this new job into existence. That’s not the case. The reality is that I trusted God and He trusted me.
Thank you, Lindenwood. Hello, YMCA.