Tufts’ Athletics Department hired Matt Callahan in October to assume the role of assistant director of recreation and club sports, a position that is new to the university.
Although the position just recently came into being, the idea of adding a full-time employee to focus on club sports and student recreation to the payroll has been percolating across different administrative bodies on campus for years, according to Director of Athletics John Morris and Senior Associate Athletic Director Alexis Mastronardi.
“In the winter of 2017, conversations about adding such a position began in earnest among representatives from the TCU [Tufts Community Union] Senate, the Division of Student Affairs, the Department of Athletics, the Provost’s Office and the Office for Campus Life,” Morris and Mastronardi told the Daily in an email.
Callahan explained that he came across postings advertising the position on the NCAA website and initiated the application process in early September. At the time, he was in the midst of a five-year stint at his alma mater, Brandeis University, where he served in a position coordinating club sports.
Prior to overseeing Brandeis’ club sports program, Callahan explained that he rose through the athletics department at the university during his college career, after a concussion permanently sidelined him from the varsity athletics program. From refereeing games, he moved to the facility front desk and then aiding on the varsity side in operations.
Upon his graduation, Callahan accepted the role of intramural and facilities coordinator while a colleague was on leave — this would eventually parlay him into his club sports position at Brandeis.
Callahan said that he was drawn to Tufts because of the athletic and academic culture of the university.
“Tufts has always been on my radar. When I saw the opening, I jumped on it right away,” he said. “I loved to make the switch to another local school with a great athletics and academic background.”
Club sports captains have long advocated for the need of a person like Callahan, noting the lack of consistent oversight contributed to problems with forced roster cuts, practice space and other logistics.
Junior Garrett Dickson, co-captain of the men’s club volleyball team, voiced his enthusiasm for the addition of Callahan to the athletics department and was pleased that the recreation program would have more direct oversight.
“I am super excited for this change. I feel like it shows that Tufts is trying to put more in club sports as a whole, and I feel it will be a largely beneficial thing for the student body,” Dickson said.
Dickson elaborated that last year, the role of overseeing club sports was largely assumed by an assistant coach for the track and field team. Dickson explained that although he was happy with the leadership, he feels that having someone who can dedicate his time entirely to club sports and intramurals would certainly alleviate the workload for the assistant coach.
Since arriving at Tufts, Callahan has largely focused on meeting with leadership in club sports and coming to understand the contexts in which they operate.
He says that over the past week, he has met with representatives from six different teams.
While the role will have some overlap with his position at Brandeis, Callahan notes that the programs are slightly different, and that the breadth of his responsibilities will differ at Tufts.
“In this role, Matt will directly manage all aspects of our student recreation programming, including our 22 club sports, intramural programming, recreation classes and the FIT Pre-Orientation program,” Morris and Mastronardi said.
Morris and Mastronardi indicated that the new position is seen as a positive change by many people in the program.
They elaborated that the role was created because key campus players, such as TCU Senate and the athletics department, felt confident that the quality of the student experience would be enhanced by assigning someone to prioritize these programs.
Morris and Mastronardi emphasized that TCU Senate acted as an important catalyst in getting the position up and running.
“Led by former TCU President Gauri Seth, the TCU Senate Executive [Board] advocated strongly and thoughtfully in support of the new position through the spring. And after considering the recommendations of the Student Life Review Committee in June, the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering, the provost’s office and the department of athletics all worked together to prioritize funding for the position,” they said.
They explained that Callahan is to act as a resource and advocate for the club sports programs whenever they need guidance or aid.
Dickson sees space and timing as potential areas of improvement.
“I think the biggest problem is something that is uncontrollable for Tufts for volleyball at least. [We] … lack the space on campus to actually do things, so we need to split times with the girls’ club team, intramurals and varsity teams as well. So the biggest problem just comes down to a lack of space for us,” Dickson said.
Dickson also explained that from his perspective, a long-term goal for the club sports program would be improving funding.
“As it currently stands, [our funding is] fairly limited to just entry fees for tournaments and some years, we have some leftover money, but it is not always the most amount of money to get more equipment, jerseys, etc,” Dickson said.
As for the coming year, Dickson emphasized his desire to maintain a constant line of communication between the sports team captains and Callahan to ensure that all parties are on the same page.
Communication is a standard Callahan appears keen to foster as well. Callahan has highlighted enhancing the student recreational experience and providing more lines of access as high on his agenda for the year to come — but first, he hopes to become acclimated to the hill.
“My first goal is to learn how they operate within the university’s policies and then expand if possible, in terms of if teams want to add more competitions or if we are able to add any club sports here,” Callahan said.