A familiar face will be in charge of the Central Lakes College athletic department this fall.
Men's basketball and men's and women's golf coach Jim Russell is the Raiders' new athletic director, replacing Jane Peterson, who has resigned from the position, but will remain as volleyball coach.
Russell, who will continue to teach and coach, is excited about the opportunity to lead an athletic program that has elevated its performance.
"I did get my master's degree in athletic administration," he said. "This is something down the road I knew I would pursue and be interested in and the opportunity came so I'm excited about a new start."
Central Lakes College men's basketball coach Jim Russell talked to the Raiders during a timeout. Russell is adding the responsibilities of athletic director this fall. Brainerd Dispatch/File photo» Purchase reprints of this photo.
The Raiders are returning to campus after one of the most successful years in CLC athletic history. In 2007, the volleyball program won its third national championship in the 2000s. The football team played for the state championship for the first time since 1991. Both basketball teams, the men's golf team and the softball team played in 2008 national tournaments.
"To me, this athletic department is probably one of the best programs in the nation because of last year's success," Russell said. "Six of our eight teams went to nationals. Usually, schools are happy to have one team go to nationals., The volleyball team won the nationals, the softball team took a run at it.
"All the success there's a reason behind it. The biggest reason, I believe, is because we have solid head coaches who work really hard. They believe what they're doing is right and they're giving kids the great experience they get here. That in itself makes my job a lot easier.
"My plan is not to micromanage these people. My biggest role is to help them as much as possible to try and add on to what we have, to publish what we have, to market what we have, because I believe it's pretty darn special."
Russell said the biggest change he will attempt to implement is to build bridges of communication between the athletic department, CLC faculty and staff and the lakes area community.
"To make people aware and understand what we're trying to do, what our student-athletes are doing, that I think will be the main role in itself," he said. "I know the money situation is tight. We'll have to continue to fundraise."
Russell said the Raiders' mission is the same as the school's.
"We would like to continue to recruit local kids, recruit statewide, and get good, quality student-athletes," he said. "In the athletic department we need to continue to provide that and also add things to attract kids to come this way.
"I would like to add an academic advisor for our student-athletes, a study hall, and try to monitor their eligibility better, try to make sure they graduate and move on to play elsewhere and go to school elsewhere."
Russell said the Raiders couldn't have been as successful as they've been without support from administration, the community and the area.
"I think about our administration," he said. "Last year six out of eight of our teams went to nationals. Funds? They came up big. They showed they cared and supported us.
"One of the things in my job that I'm blessed with is the support we do have. I will continue to build bridges but also expand that on more people. The ones we do have, have been great. I think people forget the reasons why we have success is because of the people who are hands-on.
"My philosophy won't change being the AD and a coach. We're going to keep doing the same stuff we've been doing, getting our hands dirty and helping these kids. I was told a long time ago if you want to be successful remember you're doing it for the kids, not for yourself."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.