When prospective students visit Nazareth, we often get several questions about our athletic programs. Being an athlete, and one of few in the admissions house, I’m usually the one tasked with answering the questions. In my experience, there’s typically only so much I can offer as the questions are usually specific to one team or coach, meaning unless it is a hockey question I’m typically not 100% sure.
Since sports are such a huge part of our culture at Naz, I thought featuring our athletic director in my series would be a good element. Mr. Pete Bothner has been Nazareth’s athletic director for the past 18 years. When he started his career at Nazareth the school only had 13 varsity sports teams and four JV teams. Today, Nazareth is proud to have 24 varsity teams and one JV team. Men’s volleyball, men’s ice hockey, women’s softball, women’s golf, equestrian, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track, and women’s soccer JV team are all sports which have been added since Bothner began here.
Originally from Oleon, NY Bothner earned his undergraduate degree from St. Bonaventure and later his Masters in Sports Administration at Kent State University. Prior to coming to Naz, he worked at the University of Buffalo and has been able to utilize his experience to help shape a strong and stable athletic program at Nazareth. I asked Mr. Bothner what he believes being a Nazareth athlete encompasses: “I think they are some of the best-rounded kids on campus” he said. “You look at what they do academically which is extraordinary, especially with all the time they have placed on them from athletics.” From my own experience I can say being a Nazareth athlete definitely comes with responsibility. Your coaches will stay on you about both your performance inside and outside of the classroom, and everyone here really stresses we are student-athletes. That being said, it’s ultimately up to you, but I urge anyone interested or planning to play college sports to be responsible and keep up with the academics.
Aside from academics, a common question I get from visiting families is in regards to how interested athletes should get the ball rolling. Division III is obviously different than division I, so I think it’s important for interested students to have somewhat of an understanding of the process. Every sport and coach is different, but I asked Bothner where he would advise high school students to begin their college athletic search: “There should be a combination of academic interest and sports interest and you start to try to figure out coaches and teams who embody what you’re looking for, schools that embody what you’re looking for, and then also the academic major” he said. He stressed to me how in division III it is crucial students feel 100% comfortable at the school itself, and how the school should be a good fit across the board.
One thing I want to make sure to talk about is that this may sound a bit scary but being a Naz athlete, or just a college athlete in general, is a phenomenal experience. Sure you have to go class, but the athletic competition combined with the comraderies of each team is once in a lifetime. I’ve met some of my best friends via Nazareth’s hockey team and I’ve made memories in the locker room and on the ice that will last a lifetime. My experience may be with only one team, but there is a great deal of communication between the athletic department, and people love it. Like myself, Bothner has found surrounding schools have high levels of respect for our athletic teams. He said, “I think our reputation out there is that it’s a very respectable program. When you play Naz in any sport you have to bring your A game to win, and I think people consider it a good win.” The Rochester area is littered with colleges, all of which I’d say have competitive sports teams. The competition and rivalries may be intense, but there is certainly a great deal of respect as well.
If you are someone who loves sports but is not sure about whether or not you want to pursue it, then there are other options at Naz as well. We have clubs and recreational activities, and there is also the option of founding a new club once the process is complete. Another aspect I really like about our programs is how coaches are open to walk-ons. While I’ll definitely say it is more difficult to make a team as a walk-on, the vast majority of the coaches here will give students an opportunity if they would like one.
Nazareth currently has six head coaches who are all Naz graduates themselves, proving the close knit community campus offers its students. It truly is an experience combining education with athletics in an enjoyable and lasting way, and I think we have an athletic program future students can continue to look forward to.
Read more of Packy’s Nazareth College employee series here: