You may have seen them on the sidelines, in the stands, or heading off to meetings; but what does an athletic director really do? This summer, on each Friday, we will take you behind the desk with the heads of the athletic departments from St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference member institutions. This week's interview is with Matt Mitchell, Westminster College's Senior Director of Athletic Advancement.
Matt Mitchell has been a member of the Blue Jays for nearly 20 years. Over that time he has served as a coach and administrator. After serving as the golf and men's basketball coach for eight years he focused solely on the court until he assumed the Director of Athletics position at Westminster College. This past spring he was named to his current role of Senior Director of Athletic Advancement.
Two years ago as the head of the Westminster athletic department, the Blue Jays won the school's first-ever SLIAC All-Sports Trophy (representing school wide success in athletic competition). What did that mean for the department?
"I think that internally, our department understood how unique of an achievement that was and it is a source of pride. I am not sure that people that work outside of sports truly appreciate and completely understand how unique of an achievement it was."
In addition to being the head of the Westminster athletic department, you are also the Blue Jays head men's basketball coach, both leadership positions. How do you handle an athletic staff that can be so diverse?
"I think that our department would tell you that I am very consistent with my emotions and delivery. They know how I will react to certain situations and I give them a great deal of freedom that allows them to take ownership in their program. I hope that they feel that I support them when needed and that I respect all of their efforts and the sport that they are coaching. Every coach thinks that their sport is the most important. I understand that because I get lost in my season as well. It is very important that I make myself available to our staff and their needs during my season."
As the head of the Westminster athletic department, what are some of the goals you feel are important to achieve, from coaches and staff to student-athletes?
"Oddly enough, I am not a big believer in goal setting. Every time I have set goals, I was always forced to reset when certain goals were not achievable. Over time I have realized that if we view ourselves as educators, work hard to recruit success-oriented student-athletes, stay consistent, and do things in a classy manner then success on and off the playing surface will be achieved."
You also do work with young men and talking about how to better themselves and truly be a man in today's society. Can you talk about why that is so important?
"I think that this is a subject that has developed within the past five or so years due to media and informational access via social networking. Today's young men get inundated with information that is usually negative. I feel that young men were viewing poor behavior as acceptable or even fun. It appeared to me that our young men thought it was more important to generate a large number of followers than it was to be successful in class, serve a community, or protect other students. Ultimately, I thought that young men had lost track of what it really meant to be a productive man and citizen in society."
Describe Westminster College to someone who may not have heard of it.
"Westminster is a wonderfully caring educational institution in Mid-Missouri where young minds are afforded an opportunity to broaden and develop as individuals and build a foundation that will last a lifetime. We are a people based community that takes a great deal of pride in helping to develop those foundations and enhance the college experience. Westminster is a place where students find a passion and learn how to pursue their dreams."