As some of you may know, I was a thrower for Kelly Sullivan when he was at Willamette University. I was not very good at it, but I learned a ton from Kelly and really respect him as a coach and person. I was exceedingly happy to have him become the Cross Country/Track coach at Oregon State and have loved to see the evolution of the track program under his watch. The new track is a beautiful introduction to Oregon State University athletics for those coming to visit the town.
Yesterday, I read this article on OSUBeavers.com and wanted to pass it on for anyone that missed it. Andre Auskaps, a Beaver alumnus from the class of 1974 donated over $200,000 to the Oregon State Track & Field program to help them build new facilities. What makes this gift special is that it was given because of the great experiences Auskaps had volunteering with the team. The interactions he had with the staff, participants and other volunteers moved him to make the donation.
We all secretly want some huge donor to come and drop $100 million on the football program or the Men’s Basketball program because we want to keep up with the trends around the conference, and honestly, want to try and help some of the short comings we see in those program’s ability to compete at a championship level. I found this story refreshing because the gift was not based on success, but on such an overwhelmingly positive experience with the program that he felt compelled to help out.
I want big things for our programs, but I think the one thing I want is for people to experience the programs and see what is going on. Going to practices is great, but all I have to go on is what I see. As some have pointed out, that is sketchy at best, but when you get a chance to experience the whole of a program, to see the interactions with coaches and players, to see the camaraderie and witness the attitude of the program, if it is positive, you get a much stronger relation to it that goes beyond wins and losses.
I have found my opinions of people and coaches do a 180 degree shift when I get a chance to talk to them and hear their responses in context. I have seen my worries about Bob DeCarolis soften when talking to him and hearing the reasons for why they do what they do, or in many cases, don’t do what you want them to. I have learned a lot about Mark Banker by my interactions with him and understanding of what he wants to do in the grand scheme of things. i cannot ignore results and pretend everything is great when there are clearly issues, but I find that the more I get involved with a program and see how it runs, the more I can see the motivation for what they are doing and decide if that is something I support or something I don’t.
In the case of Andre Auskaps, he found that Track & Field was something he could overwhelmingly support. Which makes me more than excited about the program and its future.