Alexandria College leaders excited about growing sports scene
Alexandria Technical and Community College added to its athletic opportunities for students this fall with men's and women's soccer and volleyball. The college is looking forward to more potential growth in the future.
Alexandria Technical and Community College faculty members have put a lot of effort into growing the sports scene at the college over the last couple of years.
In addition to men’s and women’s golf, eSports, competitive fishing and clay target opportunities for students, Alexandria College started the 2022-23 school year with volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer now underway.
“It’s added a bit of life,” interim Athletic Director Sean Johns said. “All the planning we’ve done for fall sports, we’re starting to see, and so are the staff and the employees.”
Alexandria Legends volleyball began its program with a game at St. Cloud Technical and Community College on Aug. 24, while the men’s and women’s soccer teams held home matches at Alexandria Area High School that same day.
“The overall conversation started when I came to town in 2019,” Alexandria College President Michael Seymour said. “We’ve re-engaged with the community advisory group of community leaders and talked about their perceptions of the college and the things they would like to see the college do, and one of the things that came up in the conversations with community leaders was, ‘Why is it that the college doesn't have more athletics?’ So there was a lot of strong academic programming, strong metrics and retention rates, job placement; all that was here. But we talked to stakeholders about the college and our strategic planning process, we just kept hearing that it was sort of no frills.”
At that time in 2019, the college had only one athletic opportunity, clay target shooting.
“So we went about the process of looking at budgetarily and strategically what athletic activities would serve the college. One of the early ones was golf because we looked at the great area we have and the opportunity then to attract students to the resorts and lakes area,” Seymour said. “So we added golf, and then we added eSports, and in both cases, we tried to be unique with it because, in golf, we're the only (NJCAA) DII program in Minnesota, which means we can scholarship athletes. On eSports, we were one of the first two-year colleges to get into that sport.”
Seymour said that the college has targeted sports that go along with student's academic studies in some cases. More specifically, sports like eSports were added to enhance technical learning about networking programs, cybersecurity, and IT programs, in addition to enjoying eSports.
Jeff Wild, who is the college’s outreach foundation coordinator, said there was wide support from the community to add more sports programs.
Wild said that there’s been a strong backing from the community from the beginning of the movement to bring athletics to Alexandria College. Wild said they’ve raised money through campaigning with funding partners, a fundraising event and donations from donors.
“We've been working off of this model, which is called the Legends Club,” he said. “And we've rolled in the funding partners under the Legends Club, and we're selling naming opportunities for our gym. So we've been overwhelmed with the community support that's backing us on these opportunities. They said if you're going to do athletics, go and do it right or don’t do it at all.”
The Alexandria College volleyball team has its own on-campus gym, while the soccer teams play at Alexandria Area High School for their home games. Coming in the spring of 2023, the Alexandria Legends baseball team will begin its inaugural season at Knute Nelson Memorial Park.
“We don't know what kind of crowd girls volleyball is going get, but we're pretty excited,” Wild said. “I think this town is really excited about another baseball program. Coaches are drawing talent from all over the country. So I'm really excited to see where that goes. If we do it right, we're going to build up excitement and enthusiasm.”
Wild said that building enthusiasm around the sports the college offers is a big goal. He is also thankful for the partnership the college has with Alexandria Area High School.
“For soccer, we’ve got great teams and play at Alexander High School,” Wild said. “They've been great partners and very supportive of what we're doing there. Allowing us to use their turf for home games and the practice fields is great."
Seymour is excited with the coaches the college has been able to bring in to lead these new athletic teams for the 2022-23 season.
“I think the energy went up some when people started to see the coaching that we were hiring,” Seymour said. “We got Tom [Roos] and I think that opened eyes. And we got Jason Fischer, who's been to the (NJCAA DIII) world series for baseball a handful of times. Mitch McGuire is very well known in volleyball circles.”
Chato Alvarado works at ATCC and is a co-head coach with Roos for the men’s and women’s soccer program. Alvarado, a native of Costa Rica, has professional playing experience and many years of coaching experience that he brings with him. He stepped down as head coach for the St. Louis Park boys soccer program before taking the position in Alexandria.
“He brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm and the ability to have him as a student success coach, soccer coach and athletic coordinator is invaluable,” Wild said. “He’s elevated our coaching staff with the experience he’s had with 14-plus years as the (boys) head coach of St. Louis Park.”
Johns says that the college aims for athletics and academics to align in order to enhance the student experience at ATCC.
“Athletics aligns with student engagement and activities outside the classroom,” Johns said. “There's multiple research that shows students that have engagement, not just in the classroom, but also outside of the classroom, have a greater chance of succeeding academically.”
One of the main recruiting pitches at a two-year school like ATCC will be focused on the school’s academic offerings.
“We still promote student-athlete. The student part of it is the most important part, but athletically we're going to provide a pretty good opportunity,” Seymour said.
The Alexandria College athletic program has already seen some success. In April, Jared Haugen and Brett Vander Tuin earned 34th place out of 149 teams in a national event at the Major League Fishing/Abu Garcia College Fishing event at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, and beat out anglers from four-year schools such as Iowa State, Oklahoma and Missouri.
In May, Connor Josephson of the men’s golf team and Abby Hamman of the women’s golf team competed at the 2022 NJCAA DII Championships in Joplin, Missouri. Hamman finished tied for 43rd at the championships.
As far as future sports that could be added, the college is waiting to see how these newer sports go first. Johns, Wild and Seymour mentioned that archery is popular among high school students and that there could be a club started at the college.
They said that could lead to it being a sport later on. This could also happen for some other sports, specifically men’s volleyball and softball.
“All the athletic opportunities have been very strategic for the most part as far as adding opportunities for us to grow enrollment in areas that we could grow and promote areas that need promotion,” Wild said.