This year my wife and I took the kids to New York City for the week of Thanksgiving. It had long been her dream to shop in Times Square, watch the Macy’s parade, and take in all the sights of the Big Apple. It was a terrific experience filled with great food, Broadway productions, and cultural diversity. To be honest though, I was thrilled to come home to my house in rural Oklahoma!
I’ve spent the last ten years as the Athletic Director at Oklahoma City University, a school with 3,500 students that competes in the NAIA. Frequently folks will say to me, “we’re lucky to have you….someday some big school is going to come and offer you a better job.” These comments are both flattering and somewhat insulting. Flattering in that they offer praise for the work that I have done and insulting from the standpoint that they suggest that I have somewhat “settled” for a lower tier/less important position.
I think that these are common thoughts in our industry. In our careers we are driven to “achieve the highest heights.” In college athletics those “highest heights” are almost always seen by the general public as Division I. After all, we see these games with massive crowds on TV and the newspaper headlines scream of the successes and failures. My peers and the peers of my coach’s at these institutions make significantly more money than we do. In many cases, a single coach’s salary far exceeds the budget of my entire department.
To be clear, I have a lot of great friends that I really admire that work in Division I. These people have shaped and continue to shape the ways that I approach my job. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t consider a position at a Division I institution if it were offered….but the fact is that I really enjoy the role that I have as a small college Athletic Director. I relish the fact that I get to know the student-athletes in my department. I appreciate that we play sports mostly for the love of playing sports. It really doesn’t matter that there aren’t millions of dollars riding on the outcome of the game or thousands of fans in the stands. Truly, the fact that there isn’t a million dollars or more riding on the success of our teams means that were less likely to stray from our personal values just to win. More than anything we play for pride and most importantly we sincerely try to prepare our students for a life of service. I have no doubt that I can make a difference in the life of our student-athletes . What a tremendous opportunity.
It’s important to have BIG goals in life…both personally and professionally. Just realize that you can reach the “highest heights” wherever you are!