Five minutes with CSU Athletics Director Joe Parker

Joe Parker
Joe Parker

In today’s “Five Minutes with SOURCE,” Athletics Director Joe Parker sat down to discuss his role in the Courageous Strategic Transformation plan and its impact across Colorado State University.

We’ve been asking leaders how they define some of the key terms that come up in our Courageous Strategic Transformation plan, and of course, courage is a term that almost certainly has a unique application to our athletes.  Can you talk about CSU Athletics sees courage embodied in your unit, and specifically by our student-athletes?

Our student-athletes are the embodiment of courage in everything they face on a daily basis. Putting yourself out there every day, whether it be in practice or in competition, takes a great deal of courage, both for individuals and for teams. It’s not easy to face the prospect of failure, and our athletes must overcome both adversity and that natural fear of failure to achieve their goals. Courage is something that’s wired in who they are and how they approach every day.

The structure of intercollegiate athletics is all about creating courage, to overcome both inertia and the fear of challenging yourself to do something incredibly hard. Our coaches, our staff and our student-athletes are focused daily on developing personal fortitude and on pushing ourselves—individually and in team configurations — to achieve great things.

In our first strategic imperative, People and Culture, we affirm that one of our priorities will be Training Champions. How will CSU Athletics be taking a lead in training champions? What are some things that you already do in this area that you want people to know about?  What are some new programs or initiatives underway?

In CSU Athletics, we work toward creating a championship culture every day. We hire coaches who see themselves first and foremost as educators and as mentors who want to instill a deep desire in our student-athletes to achieve greatness. Championships are how we measure ourselves. We are determined to be the preeminent program in the Mountain West and accrue more titles on the conference stage than any of our competitive peers.

We are always surveying our activities to ensure that they are all contributing to that championship culture. The support staff in strength and conditioning, our sports medicine staff, our coaches: Everyone on our team is focused on trying to understand how you optimize our programs so they lead to a successful experience for our student-athletes. And we’re thinking holistically. We are reenvisioning our approach to sports nutrition to help our student-athletes be both informed and self-sufficient in their nutritional choices. We’re evaluating new technologies in strength and conditioning, including testing wearable activity- and performance-trackers that can help a student-athlete push themselves to their highest potential possible without ever going too far.

Another strategic imperative is Operational and Fiscal Excellence, including the priority of Optimizing our Space. This spring, CSU Athletics will be breaking ground on a new soccer-softball complex. How is this new facility an example of the operational excellence that we are committed to through Courageous Strategic Transformation?

Enhanced facilities for our soccer and softball programs have emerged a top priority over the past three years. The soccer-softball complex is a real moment for the entire institution to celebrate and focus on the importance of women’s athletics on our campus.  The collaborative way the facility is funded is part of that story: we’ve identified resources in partnership with ASCSU and the student-fee board.

Soccer as a varsity sport has been a part of our portfolio for a decade, but the teams have never had a permanent, well-developed home. This new facility sends a clear message to our student-athletes that we value them and want to help them become champions. With softball, we’ve been surviving in a facility that is more than 30 years old and has not had any significant improvements. The new complex will help these student-athletes advance and develop both individually and as a team.

We will break ground on April 28, a little more than a month before the official 50th anniversary of Title IX. The timing speaks to our desire to celebrate women’s sports and female student-athletes.  We want all our student-athletes to know how much we value the commitment they make to CSU every day.

Another term that is fundamental to our Courageous Strategic Transformation is inclusive excellence as an aspiration for everyone at CSU.  How does CSU Athletics support our student-athletes in their pursuit of inclusive excellence?  And are there any stories you could share of student-athletes who really exemplify this quality?

We affirm our desire for inclusive excellence in athletics every day. We have incredible opportunities in each of our locker rooms. As you look across our teams, many of them represent some of the most diverse groups anywhere on our campus. And our student-athletes have demonstrated their interest in trying to help the entire campus grow in this space. One of our track student-athletes, Kamal-Craig Golaube, came to us a year ago and said he wanted to emphasize and build awareness for the LGBTQ community, so we launched Athlete Ally in partnership with him and our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. We want to make sure that CSU Athletics is an inclusive space where people of all identities feel empowered and positive about their experience.

We’re also proud of the leadership programing we’ve implemented in the department and of what is being done at the sport-specific level to help our student-athletes understand the value of leadership and find ways to both empower themselves and support one another. That’s a constant effort that is a part of the DNA of our entire division.

CST Mark RGB Green