Athletic development: The strategic plan for sports


Photo by LFA Communications

Lake Forest Academy’s Varisty Field Hockey Team featuring new coach, Greta Kullby.

Mimi Osborne and Connor Drobny

   Whether it has been implementing a new focus on female athletics or installing more serious coaching requirements, Lake Forest Academy’s athletic department has undergone significant changes over the past year—all for the betterment of the students.

   The requirements to become a coach are far more rigorous than before. In past years, any member of the LFA faculty who was interested in coaching had the opportunity to work with their desired sports team. However, now varsity head coaches must become certified (through their respective athletic federation) to head coach a varsity team. Examples of representative federations are, according to Madeley, “…USA Hockey, USATF is for track and field, and soccer has the USA Soccer Federation.” The certification program often entails completing an online portion and then moving into tailored clinics run by previously certified coaches. Madeley underscored that he is “hiring good people who are qualified to work with students.” Furthermore, Madeley said in regards to students, “You can be a great athlete, but if I bring you here and you are not getting good coaching, then I am not doing any favors.” The benefit of this arrangement is faculty who want to coach, but are not certified, can still coach non-varsity teams and be an assistant coach on varsity teams. Madeley hopes the coaches will “want to get to the masters level…It’s the same as a student coming into LFA and knowing that all their teachers aspire to be the best at their discipline. I want the same in my varsity coaches.” Madeley has described “no pushback” by non-certified coaching faculty, demonstrating their commitment to becoming the best coaches possible. 

   While the athletic department has always held a strong emphasis on female sports, the changes made over the past few months have particularly demonstrated this. The department has implemented many changes to girls’ athletics in order to showcase the capabilities of female athletes. Alexis Venechanos, the new Associate Athletic Director, said, “It’s getting more girls exposed to sports they don’t know about.” LFA not only wants students to pursue new athletic interests, but also revel in sports in which they find themselves adroit. To help accomplish this, Madeley brought in four new coaches—Greta Kullby, Alexis Venechanos, Izzy Huntington, and Sarah Taylor—to elevate the level of experience given to female athletes. Kullby played Division Ⅰ field hockey at Lafayette College, Venechanos played Division Ⅰ lacrosse at Maryland, Huntington played Division ⅠⅠ volleyball at Davenport University, and Taylor’s tennis career is world-renowned, quite literally, being ranked 68th globally at the peak of her career. Taylor and Venechanos are also LFA faculty members working as a science teacher, teaching AP Psychology, and Associate Athletic Director respectively. The shift currently emphasizing female athletics occurred because, according to Madeley, girls athletics was in prior years, “always put on the backburner.” However, he now hopes to showcase that “this is who we are.” 

   The changes began after a meeting that Madeley had with Head of School José De Jesús. Madeley summarized the discussion by stating that it was about “wanting to try something and Mr. De Jesús saying, ‘let’s do it.’” From there, Madeley set himself to work alongside Dave Atas, Head Athletic Trainer, and Pam Dye, Athletic Operations Manager, to draft a strategic plan for moving forward. After many revisions, the plan was sent through an athletic committee composed of various faculty members—who edited it even more—and then finally to Associate Head of School Chris Tennyson, Dean of Faculty Tom Johnson, and De Jesús himself. The plan consists of three main steps: focusing more heavily on female athletics, pride and school spirit, and the potential for a new athletic facility. The plan has already begun to unfold and will continue to be seen in coming years. The changes in the athletic department are, as Madeley noted, “tailored for students” in hopes that the new developments will bring positive outcomes for the LFA community.