Interview With Calvin College Track and Field Coach

Interview With Calvin College Track and Field Coach

Jan 07, 2016 / By : / Category : Interview, NCAA

Calvin College

Welcome to Interview #39.

I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Division 3 Track and Field Coach of Calvin College, Bret Otte.

 

This interview is special to me. When I took my first head college coaching position, Coach Otte took me under his wing and mentored me. He helped me to look, not just at athletic prowess, but at each person as a whole. He is very intentional about developing not just athletes, but people.

I doubt even today, Coach Otte knows what a profound influence he was on my life and coaching career. I am sure there are 25 years of athletes and other coaches who feel the same way.

“Bret has is a highly skilled coach with years of experience,” said Calvin director of men’s athletics Jim Timmer. “I think that stands out the most about him however is his love for Calvin College. He understands the mission of our institution wholeheartedly. When you have an individual like that working for you, it is a blessing. We are looking forward to working with Bret for years to come.”

In addition to serving as Calvin’s head men’s and women’s track and field coach, Otte serves as a faculty member in the Calvin Health Physical Education Recreation Dance and Sport department.

“I am just as excited about becoming a faculty member as I am as a coach,” said Otte. “I love to learn and Calvin College is a wonderful place to learn.”

Coach Otte’s full bio is at the end of the interview.

Read on. This interview is full of priceless information!

Where do Division 3 track and field coaches most often find players for their teams?

  • Many times student-athletes find us via the internet or word-of-mouth
  • I find them by searching various internet recruiting sites and athletic.net

What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen?  What are the important steps for an athlete to get noticed by you? 

  • Send an email or letter
  • fill out an on-line recruiting form on our athletic website.
    • This shows us you are serious
    • Have initiative

At a previous school you coached both cross country and track and field. You are now solely the men’s and women’s track and field coach. Bigger programs will separate coaches for men’s and women’s track. What should athletes look for as far as coaching staff, number of coaches involved? What is important regarding the coaching staff for a good collegiate experience?

  • Can you get specialized coaching for your particular event.
    • Co-ed coaching lends itself to more specialized coaching as coach can work with both men and women at the same time.
  • Coaches that do both XC and TF are hard pressed for time. Good ones can do both sports almost equally well.
  • Does the head coach know your name, did they meet with you when you visited campus?
  • What are the hidden costs of time and money?
    • Do you have to work special events as program fundraisers?
    • Do you have to buy your own competition gear?

Track and field recruiting is all about recorded data, right? Or is there more to it?

  • Not a ton more to track and field stats to see how a person will fit in to the competitive scheme of the team, league regional and national levels of play.
  • A big one is to get a person on campus to mutually figure out how they fit into the school and peers.

How do you use social media when recruiting? What is your advice to recruits about their use of social media?

  • I use twitter sparingly. I should use it more but it is a time thing for me. I am so focused on my current teams that another mode of communication is just another task that distracts me from my teams.
  • Stick with the popular types of social media when trying to stay in touch with coaches.
  • Coaches are usually quite a bit older than the potential student-athletes and, usually, we are not as tech savvy. Constantly changing social media format and apps will create a communication gap.
  • Answer your cell phone calls. I use texting quite a bit myself and find that it a great, fast and convenient method of communication. However, real relationships are based on real forms of communication which use tone, inflection and clarification convey deep concepts.

What are a few of the most common mistakes that prospective-student athletes make in the college recruiting process? 

  • Eliminate schools based on sticker price.
  • Go to the cheapest priced school. That school may be the best one for you or it could be a real stinker.
  • Avoid shopping yourself around like a used car to many different colleges. You are much more than a commodity and owe it to yourself to find the best place for you to develop and grow as a holistic human being.
  • “Visit” colleges on-line and eliminate OR keep colleges on short list based on perceived quality of school web-site. You have to see it in person.
  • Delaying communication with college coaches. If a coach sends a letter, email or voice message… get back to them ASAP if you are serious about the school. If not, politely tell the coach you are not interested but you will contact them if you change your mind.
  • Waiting for the “big offer”. If you have not been contacted after your sophomore or junior year… chances are it’s not coming.

I coached at the Division 3 level for seven years. One of the biggest concerns from parents was financial. Parents would tell me because Division 3 does not offer athletic scholarships they can’t afford it. What would you say to those parents?

  • Go through the process of application and financial aid. Be sure to KNOW if it is affordable.
  • Ask if the school has an early estimator to help figure out the price of the education before the finalized FAFSA and school packages.
  • Check out the other forms of financial aid available to your child. Community and State scholarships can start to add up when combined.

What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?

  • Please be a part of your child’s education selection. I often hear “Well, it’s up to them where they go.” Are you sure your child is ready for that big decision? Have they ever done anything this big before in their life?
  • Ask questions or, at least, help your child figure out questions to ask of coaches.
  • Be just as concerned about the overall education rather than the cost.
    • I recommend keeping these thoughts in mind how fit and of the school, athletic team and coach will factor in to the influential stages of late adolescent development.
    • Cheap education may mean a discount degree. Quality has a price and parents will need to figure out cost and benefit.

Your players are consistently getting high GPA’s. How are they able to balance athletics and academics? What are some keys to their success?

  • Person Organization
  • Positive peer culture in both the general student body and the team.
  • Positive parental involvement and expectations.
    • Helicopter parents don’t help long term and neither does overly lenient parents that “let the kids be kids”.
    • Have to hit a sweet spot of being involved yet letting go of the child.

You have been coaching for 20 years. Not to make you feel old or anything. Could you share any examples of how competing at the collegiate level has impacted any of your alumni in their lives after college?

  • I am old… it’s been 25 years.
  • Lifelong friendships based on deep struggles and triumphs
    • Sports and other positive long-term groups have a way of binding people together.
    • College parties, video games, resident/dorm and short-term trips and groups have a way of bringing people together but are not based on much past surface involvement.
  • Most successful teams are based on positive peer culture and commitment.
    • These are all things that carry over into to families, church, work and broader communities.

Have you ever coached a married couple? Can you share a bit of their story? Did you tell their parents during the recruiting process this was a possibility?

  • I have coached a married couple. Happened last year.
  • It was a positive experience for all involved; coaches, student-athletes and married couple.
  • We do talk about it with parents but not from the narrow perspective of the team but from the broader scope of the college.
  • Young people are figuring out who they are at this time of life. It is normal for them to find others that match-up with them as they grow together.

Profile:

Bret OtteA 1990 Calvin College graduate, Bret Otte is no stranger to the Calvin program as he was a four-year letterwinner on the Calvin men’s track and field team from 1986-to-1989, competing as a sprinter on Calvin teams that won MIAA titles in 1987, 1988 and 1989.

Otte later served as an assistant coach with the Calvin men’s and women’s track and field teams in 1995 and 1996 while earning his Master’s Degree in physical education from Central Michigan University. Otte worked closely with Calvin’s sprinters and hurdlers and helped Holly Breuker win a national title in the 400 meter hurdles at the 1996 NCAA III Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Otte is also no stranger to West Michigan as he hails from Grandville and is a graduate of Grandville Calvin Christian High School where he was a varsity letterwinner in football and in track and field.

Otte’s coaching expertise has been honed from learning from coaches from around the world. After graduating from Calvin, Otte and his wife Lorraine moved to Ontario where he taught and coached at Beacon Christian High School. While there, he earned a Level III Coaching License in track and field from the Canadian National Institute of Sport. While living near Toronto, Otte was able to learn from several international coaches who had centered themselves in Canada. “After the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, there were many international coaches that chose to remain in Canada and live in Toronto,” said Otte. “I took advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as I could from them while I was there. That (Toronto) experience helped spur me on to become a collegiate track and field coach.”

After receiving his Master’s Degree from Central Michigan in 1995, Otte accepted an assistant coaching position with the Central Michigan women’s track and field program. He later served as an assistant track and field coach at Illinois State before accepting the head cross country and track and field positions at Geneva College in 1998.

At Geneva, Otte took over cross country and track and field programs that were thin in roster size and built them up to highly competitive levels. His women’s cross country teams were twice ranked in the NAIA top 25 and he sent numerous distance runners to the NAIA Cross Country Championships. Otte also sent numerous Geneva track and field athletes on to the NAIA Championships. In 2003, he led the Geneva women’s track and field team to its first American Mideast Conference title. He then led Geneva in its transition to becoming an NCAA III institution and as a member of the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference (PAC).

“We are very pleased that Bret Otte has accepted the head men’s and women’s track and field coaching position,” said Dr. Nancy Meyer, Calvin’s director of women’s athletics upon Otte’s appointement as head coach. “He has extensive experience as both a men’s and women’s track and field coach and I am confident that he we will do a fantastic job.”

“Bret has is a highly skilled coach with years of experience,” said Calvin director of men’s athletics Jim Timmer. “I think that stands out the most about him however is his love for Calvin College. He understands the mission of our institution wholeheartedly. When you have an individual like that working for you, it is a blessing. We are looking forward to working with Bret for years to come.”

A return to his alma mater has Otte brimming with excitement.

“I am extremely excited to come back to Calvin College,” said Otte. “In some ways it is a bittersweet transition for me and my family as Geneva College has a very special place in our hearts and we are sad to leave friends and colleagues. At the same time, Calvin College also has a special place in our hearts and in many ways, I can already see where God has led me back to my alma mater. I am eagerly looking forward to the opportunities that the Lord has presented to me here at Calvin.”

In addition to serving as Calvin’s head men’s and women’s track and field coach, Otte serves as a faculty member in the Calvin Health Physical Education Recreation Dance and Sport department.

“I am just as excited about becoming a faculty member as I am as a coach,” said Otte. “I love to learn and Calvin College is a wonderful place to learn. I look forward to learning from my students. I look forward to learning from events like the (Calvin) January Series and I look forward to learning from my colleagues.”

Otte and his wife Lorraine – also a 1990 Calvin College graduate — are the parents of four children. They now reside in Grand Rapids.

Next, take a look at What is NCAA Division 3?

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Keep in the conversation,

Bryan

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