Building a Foundation for Future Success

Assistant softball coach Katie Botkins (left) and head coach Kathy Kroupa (right) took the 2010 Susquehanna softball team to the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament.

Collegiate head coaches would work all day and night if minor needs like food, sleep and family didn’t get in the way. There is always a game to plan, game film to review and recruits to contact. But thanks to the generosity of several alumni, Susquehanna’s head coaches can share the workload with college graduates eager to get some experience under their belts.

John R. Strangfeld ’75, chair of the Board of Trustees, and his wife, Mary Kay, are the faces behind Susquehanna’s athletics internship program, now entering its fourth year.

Despite not being a student-athlete during his days at SU, Strangfeld knew the significant impact athletics programs had on the campus environment, where the university now boasts 23 varsity sports and one-quarter of the student body are student-athletes.

“Susquehanna’s offering of quality academics and quality athletics is an important part of the university’s value proposition,” Strangfeld said when the program was first established.

Strangfeld and his wife structured the $500,000 gift that established the program so that seven positions—six assistant coaches and one intramural intern—would be funded for five years.

“That first year had such an initial impact on on-field coaching, recruiting, generating applications, increasing the class size and so much more,” says Pam Samuelson, director of athletics. “Those were the visible effects, but these interns also contributed in so many ways that weren’t as visible, including their great connection with our student-athletes because they were closer in age.”

After seeing the initial impact of the internship program, Strangfeld was no longer content with just seven positions. He decided to issue a fund raising challenge to expand the program for its sophomore season.

The Strangfelds financed the addition of two more interns and issued a call for matching funds. Trustee Edward Schmit ’69 was on board with the Strangfelds’ plan, as was the university. Schmidt and the university both matched Strangfeld’s gift, nearly doubling the program to 13 interns in 2007–08.

Head women’s soccer and softball coach Kathy Kroupa, the reigning Landmark Conference Coach of the Year in both sports, can attest to the impact the internship program has had on the athletics program.

“Our interns have done a remarkable job in propelling our programs further into the competitive arena,” she says. “Their work has allowed our programs to progress at an incredibly fast rate. There is a great deal of pride and a sense of accomplishment within our department right now, and there is no doubt in my mind that a great deal of that is a result of the addition of this program.”

That influence isn’t a one way street, however. The interns reap as much benefit from the program as the student-athletes and coaches do, which was all part of Strangfeld’s broader vision for the program. “[By] providing an entrée into collegiate coaching, the interns have an opportunity to both learn and make a difference,” he says.

A case in point: Justin Makar ’07, a former Susquehanna men’s soccer player and assistant coach. Makar spent four seasons playing for head coach Jim Findlay, and after graduation, the internship program afforded him the opportunity to pursue his goal of becoming a collegiate soccer coach.

“The internship program was such a great opportunity for me to learn and mature as a young coach,” says Makar, now an assistant coach at Division I Lafayette College. “I learned not only from Coach Findlay, but from all of the coaches. Recognizing that you can always learn and better your coaching abilities is one of the ideas that I will carry with me throughout my career.”

In sports, it’s typically impossible to have more than one winner, but at Susquehanna the impossible has been achieved in only a few short years.

Contributing writers to the Scoreboard section are Katie Meier, director of athletics communications; Justin Lutes, assistant director of athletics communications.

 



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