The culture of intercollegiate athletics is changing at Cerro Coso Community College. Thanks to the support and substantial donations by the Mather Brothers Inc. and the Cerro Coso Coyote Club, the college increased its commitment to athletic opportunities with the return of women’s soccer, women’s softball, and men’s basketball. These sports joined men’s baseball and women’s volleyball in the line-up of sports offered this past year.
Reviving athletic programs, even at a Division III school – the only division that does not permit athletic scholarships – is a gradual and demanding process that takes time and patience. The head coaches of these ambitious endeavors stepped up to the challenge of fielding new sports, with limited time and resources, starting programs from scratch.
The college remains optimistic in addressing the challenges inherent in developing and offering athletics at a small, rural community college even in the face of setbacks. Before the fall semester began the college lost its athletic director who oversees all aspects of the programs. Duties were quickly absorbed by other college employees as they juggled existing responsibilities with new assignments. It is quite a task to do everything from the ground level.
The most vital part of the process, even more than securing funding, is convincing young adults to help start a program from scratch. And recruiting—at home and away—takes the biggest effort in terms of time. Soccer coach Tony Rosa experienced firsthand the difficulty of fielding a full team of home grown athletes late in the recruiting cycle. Games were forfeited or played with no contest. Softball did not make it through its season and ultimately has been cancelled due to the Coyotes struggling with an insufficient number of players.
But the Coyote spirit and commitment to these two sports is strong. Coach Rosa’s love for the game and enthusiasm are contagious, and he has invested a substantial amount of time recruiting for the upcoming 2017 season. Additionally, Cerro Coso is actively recruiting for a new softball coach as well as a full-time athletic director to assist the college in its grass-roots initiatives to increase fundraising and image reconstruction.
A member of the Central Valley Conference (CVC), Cerro Coso competes at the Division III level where the “student” in student-athlete is strongly emphasized. The learning that takes place in its athletic program complements the student athletes’ learning in the classroom and prepares them for life after Cerro Coso. “Our student athletes contribute in many ways to the life and vitality of our campus community,” stated President Jill Board.
At many colleges, athletics are a point of pride and an important part of student life and engagement. And competition among colleges mean a lot to their athletes, students, and alumni. “Our athletes are expected to be a positive part of the college and this community,” said Heather Ostash, VP of Student Services. “Sports plays a really large role in student life, engagement and community connection.” With smart fundraising and the right kind of vision, Coyotes are on track to fill that niche to create a higher profile for itself in athletics.
Building on the success of existing programs, Cerro Coso is devoted to building a culture in athletics that will lead to success both in the classroom and on the field.