This issue of Och Tamale features an interview I conducted with Mike Maynard, longtime University of Redlands football coach who has become a most-respected colleague and friend. Mike personifies so much of what I admire about our athletics programs as well as the University as a whole—commitment to education, cultivation of excellence, and attention to each student’s personal growth.
Mike is known for many things, not the least of which is his outstanding record of championship wins (his stats are among the top 10 of active coaches in Division III schools across the nation). But eclipsing these figures is his reputation for advising generations of Bulldogs to hone their “extreme desire and mental toughness.” This sentiment has helped produce players who persevere, embrace camaraderie, and understand that aspiring to athletic greatness can be a pursuit that is not only physical but also spiritual. That mantric phrase about the essence of perseverance runs through my mind often, whether in the gym each week or in handling life’s many challenges.
The power of the “extreme desire and mental toughness” adage shows on the football field but also in other aspects of students’ lives, including academics. Perhaps Mike’s most impressive statistic is that 100 percent of students who continue to play for him at the University of Redlands graduate.
With the drumbeat of headlines reporting the latest athletics scandal, some people have understandably come to question the value of college sports. In Division I athletics—where the salaries, scholarships, and other financial stakes run high—the tension between sports and academics can indeed precipitate problems. However, in Division III schools such as Redlands—where budgets are comparatively modest and athletics scholarships are nonexistent—the scene is set for students to play for the love of the game. In this case, opportunities abound for the emergence of true greatness by athletes who pursue learning and sports with balance and passion.
At Redlands, we designate select participants of our athletics programs “scholar-athletes” because they excel both in the classroom and in the sports arena, following in a distinguished American collegiate tradition. Remarkably, our student-athletes overall perform better on measures of academic success—from GPA to retention and graduation rates—than our average student. At Redlands, athletics is apparently not detracting from academic growth but is enhancing it.
Mike is only one of the coaches at Redlands who makes multifaceted success possible for our student-athletes. Students participating in one (or more) of our 21 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams are supported by dozens of coaches, from head coaches to assistant coaches and volunteers. Like our faculty and staff, our coaches are devoted to mentoring and supporting students as they develop skills for life.
I suspect many of us who weren’t well-rounded scholar-athletes in college wish we could have been. I certainly do. In our mind’s eye, we can see ourselves soaring over the bar in high jump, crossing the finish line on the track, hitting the ball out of the park, or making the three-pointer. For those of us whose athletic achievements peaked in high school (sigh…for me, the moment I placed third in the hurdles), contributions to athletics might have consisted of playing in the marching band, cheering on others from the stands, or admiring others’ feats from afar.
Fortunately, much later, like so many appreciative parents, I’ve had the opportunity to live vicariously through my children and grandchildren … and now the Redlands students I so admire, who astound me with their prowess. I take great satisfaction from the athletic accomplishments of our extended family of Bulldogs. Equally amazing are their many successes in their other fields, including the arts, sciences, business, humanities, and education. It’s the character of the athlete that impresses, cultivated by the thoughtful and caring mentoring of our coaches and professors, who make an indelible impact every day.
Thank you for being part of the University of Redlands team.
Ralph W. Kuncl, PhD MD
University of Redlands