One of the most famous baseball movie sayings states, “If you build it, they will come.” This saying resonates with Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) today as they prepare to launch their new intercollegiate athletics program for the 2012-13 school year. The program introduces six sports, including men’s baseball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s fastpitch softball.
To provide a home for the Grizzlies, the college recently broke ground on their $13.5 million main athletics facility that will complement the pre-existing Collins Hill Tennis & Fitness Center located along Collins Hills Road.
The main facility, funded by an already-approved student fee, will feature soccer, softball and baseball fields. Spectators will find 800 seats for baseball, 600 seats for softball and ample hillside seating for soccer. The 25,000-square foot athletics building will offer locker rooms, training rooms and offices. In addition, the tennis and fitness center houses four clay and 12 asphalt courts, an outdoor recreational pool, an office, and locker and weight rooms.
“These properties will provide outstanding facilities for our intercollegiate sports program, as well as intramural or club sports,” says Dr. Darin Wilson, GGC’s first athletics director. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to build an athletics program from the ground up and to develop a program that will be integrated with GGC’s emphasis on learning and leadership.”
Dr. Wilson comes to GGC from Union College in Barbourville, Ky., where he served as the athletics director since 2003. His departure brings an end to 18 years of involvement with Union College, from an undergraduate student-athlete to leading the athletics program.
As a leader of GGC’s athletics program, Dr. Wilson continues his winning record with the college’s recent membership to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) as well as receiving NAIA’s Athletics Director of the Year Award for 2010-11.
He has also been a key player in hiring a team of top head coaches from across the country. Here’s the background on each of these athletic leaders:
Men’s baseball – Brad Stromdahl
Stromdahl became the Grizzlies’ first coach. A former college catcher, he has coached baseball at Southwest Minnesota State, Marshall University and Central Michigan University before spending the last six years at Georgia State University.
Women’s softball – Kat Ihlenburg
As a college softball player, Ihlenburg caught and played outfield for Barry University. She brings eight years of collegiate softball coaching experience to GGC.
Men’s and Women’s Tennis – Chase Hodges
Hodges has 14 years of collegiate coaching experience, including the last 11 as a head coach, and boasts the distinction of being the only head coach in NCAA tennis history to lead five different programs to a national ranking.
Men’s soccer – Steve DeCou
DeCou has served as head coach at Huntington College and Trinity Christian College. He spent the last five years as head coach and assistant director of athletics at Belhaven University. He holds master’s degree in sports medicine from the United States Sports Academy.
Women’s soccer – Dom Martelli
Martelli comes to GGC with 18 years of Division I coaching experience. He spent the last 12 seasons at Georgia State University, where he served as the institution’s winningest coach in school history.
Assistant soccer coaches – Kevin May and Mandy Schneider
May has spent the last three years as the director of soccer operations at the University of Connecticut. He has previously served as an assistant coach at both Nazareth College and Rochester Institute of Technology.
Schneider comes to GGC with five years of Division I coaching experience. She spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons as an assistant at Jacksonville University and the past three years as an assistant to Martelli at Georgia State.
“I am very excited to have built such an outstanding team of coaches,” said Dr. Wilson. “They all have winning records as coaches but more importantly, they understand that the core of the athletic experience is helping young people to develop the skills and attitudes they need to succeed in life, no matter their career path.”
Wilson and his coaching staff have worked quickly to build contacts, visit local high school coaches and host prospective athletes on campus tours. Brad Stromdahl signed the college’s first official incoming freshman athlete for men’s baseball, AJ Davis of Parkview High School.
The college’s athletics program will also be partnering with Gwinnett Medical Center to provide sports medicine services for every sport.
Intercollegiate athletics will add yet another dimension to student life at the rapidly-growing college, which now has more than 8,000 students. GGC is committed to a philosophy of total personal development. A complete athletics program including varsity, club and intramural sports, offers all students an opportunity to develop skills in teamwork, leadership and other key areas.
Plus, the college will certainly attract more students as a result of having intercollegiate athletics and they look forward to the active involvement of the local community in each sports program. GGC also launched a new athletics program website, www.grizzlyathletics.com, to help students and community members find up-to-date information on team rosters, game schedules and much more as the Grizzlies kick off their first year of intercollegiate competition.
“Our athletics program will add engagement opportunities for our campus community, as well as the community at large,” said GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman. “We look forward to many years of hearing our students, friends and neighbors cheer, ‘Go Grizzlies!’”
Don’t miss the Grizzlies’ historic, first intercollegiate event – A double-header for the women’s (at 1 p.m.) and men’s (at 3 p.m.) soccer teams against Tennessee Temple University at home, Aug. 25.