Alumni, parents, and fans are getting together to support varsity sports and to mentor athletes

by John Torsiello

It’s nice to have friends.

In the case of Fairfield University athletics, the more “Friends” the better.

The Friends of Fairfield University Athletics program was launched last year to provide a tangible collaboration between the University’s alumni, parents, fans, and current coaches and players on the school’s sports teams. The idea was to build on the web of relationships within the Fairfield community, particularly those who have a love for the varsity teams.

The goal is to create a deep and rich connectivity between those involved in athletics, encouraging fans to attend games, and support the athletes through events, networking, and financial support. The program rolled out this past year with lacrosse, soccer, and basketball with the expectation that more Friends groups will soon form to support other varsity sports.

“The Friends of Fairfield University presents our fans and alumni with a chance to stay connected with our coaches and student-athletes,” said Athletics Director Gene Doris. “Over the past year and a half we have held special events that have fostered the interaction of friends and family with our current teams. I believe this interaction has been truly successful. Moving forward, I know that we can build on the relationship among our alumni, parents, coaches, and student-athletes through the Friends groups. There is a tremendous opportunity for mentorship and networking that will grow through these relationships.”

Rob McMahon ’87, is chairman of the Fairfield University Friends of Soccer, which has enjoyed a successful launch.

“For alums, joining the Friends program is a great way to stay apprised of how our soccer teams are doing,” he said. “And, for both students and alumni alike, it is a great way for players to stay in touch with one another and leverage the Fairfield network to exchange ideas about careers, job opportunities, and interview skills, to name a few. If sports teach us anything it is that we are capable of doing greater things when we work together as a team than when we go it alone.”

Last spring, the Friends of Soccer and Friends of Lacrosse programs teamed up to host a student-athlete roundtable. Five former Fairfield University student-athletes spoke to 150 current athletes and offered career advice.

“The student athletes were very engaged since they had a chance to hear directly from successful people who were in their chair a short time ago,” said McMahon. “The themes the students heard were very similar. Teamwork, persistence, creativity, and leadership are all traits vital to succeeding in the real world. And, hearing the message from a CEO, an investment banker, an attorney, and an editor means more than reading about it on the Internet. It was a huge success!”

Will Mraz ’73, chairman of the Fairfield University Friends of Lacrosse, said that they have also met with a high degree of progress.

“The objective of Fairfield University Friends of Lacrosse is to secure the men’s and women’s lacrosse programs’ place among the nation’s finest – both academically and athletically. Bringing together groups of bright, creative people always has great benefits. I see the opportunities for the Friends programs as limitless in so many areas, such as special events, mentoring and career networking, building on our sense of tradition, game day fan support, communication, and so much more.”

He continued: “Associated with our fund-raising effort, the men’s and women’s lacrosse locker rooms underwent a major renovation over the summer. Most importantly our initial contact list of lacrosse Friends has already swelled from a solid base of around 200 to almost 600 (and growing) ardent supporters.”

Mraz called the Friends initiative “hugely important” for the overall continued success of the University sports teams, “especially for some of the ‘smaller’ sports on campus.”

“People love to belong to something bigger than themselves in support of a common cause, and sport is a great vehicle to get people together and make things happen. It is terrific to see their response and gratitude for the efforts of the Friends volunteers. We have just started.”

Mraz believes that communication and coordination of information and message is of utmost importance to the overall maturation of the Friends initiative, no matter the sport.

“Creating and keeping open the link of communication between our Friends and the University will be paramount. Utilizing the University’s Web site and our other IT avenues effectively and making it easy for Friends to participate and share and find pertinent information will be an ongoing, evolving effort. With all the interest Friends has generated I don’t see hurdles or issues before us, only opportunities.”

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