Eight years ago, the Kalamazoo College Athletics Department faced an external review that showed that K’s athletics were not at the level they needed to be. In June of 2007, part-time coaches coached nine of the sixteen sports at K. Today only two sports still have part-time coaches.
K has always been a school renowned for its academics. It has consistently ranked near the top of the country in overall academic success among other outstanding statistics. Due to this, athletics has always played second fiddle to the strong academics here at K. But the athletics community is trying to change that. “We are working hard to make the athletics here on par with the academics,” said Director of Athletics Kristen Smith.
To do this, three specific areas have been targeted for improvement within the athletics department. The first area is coaching. This is something Smith feels the department has already improved upon by hiring five new full time coaches since 2007. The benefits of having full time coaches is that the coaches now can devote much of their time to recruiting and fundraising, rather than their second job.
The second area that was targeted for improvement was an upgrade in facilities. Smith said facilities have also been vastly improved upon since 2007. The improvements include the brand new Calder Fieldhouse, upgrades to the Anderson Athletic Center, and the planned new natatorium and fitness center.
The final area that needed improvement was the resources and funding for athletics at K. This is an area that has seen gradual improvement in the athletics department over the last eight years. The obvious increases in funding and resources helped raise the money that was used to build the new Fieldhouse, among other things.
Since the athletics department has begun improving on the three targeted areas, they have already begun to see improvement from sports teams. The women’s basketball team made the playoffs for the first time ever under the new playoff format this year. Katie Miller was hired as the first ever full time women’s basketball coach at K in May 2011.
Besides basketball, many other sports at K have begun to show more success since the changes to the department began in 2007. Men’s and women’s soccer have both made conference tournaments, men’s golf had their best season finish in over 20 years, swimming produced several MIAA records, and diving produced an individual national champion. Another team that has shown success is the women’s lacrosse team that is now in their second season. After finishing middle of the conference in their first season, they are already off to a strong start this year.
Now that the success of the new athletic plan has been proven to be the right track for K athletics, Kristen Smith is focused on keeping the program on that right track. “We’re still working through the current plan we had,” says Smith. One goal she has going forward is that the better sports teams will begin to draw more support from the students on campus.
Another of her key points going forward is that coaches will be recruiting more and better athletes to the program. Smith says, “Coaches are already asked to do a lot, but we would like the coaches to do more recruiting than fundraising in the future.”
Smith and the rest of the athletic department are currently working on enhancing the budget so coaches get more time to recruit instead of having to focus so much on fundraising.