As director of Athletics, head women’s basketball coach and, most recently, head women’s golf coach, Brad Duckworth is a busy guy, but he took some time to share details about the recent addition of golf as a varsity sport.
Q: How has the Alverno Athletics program changed since Alverno Inferno was established in 2000?
Our program has continued to grow. When I got here in 2007, we had just over 50 student athletes; seven or eight of them lived on campus. Our sports were basketball, volleyball, cross country, softball and soccer. We’ve since added tennis and, now, golf. We’ve almost doubled our student athlete count, and this year, about 40 student athletes will be living in our residence halls.
Our basketball team has made the conference tournament a few times, and we’ve certainly turned the tides in terms of our competitiveness.
Q: What’s the story behind “Alverno Inferno?”
Inferno was chosen via a vote by the students at the inception of the athletic program. We are one of 10 or so team names/mascots in the country that are not an animal and don’t end in the letter s. If you look at team names, most are an animal or end in s – Brewers, Panthers, Badgers. We’ve actually gotten some national attention because of that.
It’s not always easy marketing a fire – Blaze is our mascot – but Alverno Inferno has a certain ring to it. People don’t forget the Alverno Inferno.
Q: Why was golf selected as Alverno’s 7th sport?
We considered golf five years ago, when we were adding a sixth sport. At that time, it was between golf and tennis, and tennis seemed to be a better fit with the students that we had on our campus. Also, five years ago, nationally, women’s golf was really struggling for numbers.
With tennis now firmly established, we went back to our strategic plan, which was to add another sport. Now golf made the most sense. It’s become a much more vibrant sport on the women’s side in the last five years.
We also feel that golf is a lifelong sport. We obviously want to compete at the highest level, but we also want to provide our women with an opportunity to understand the game and to learn the etiquette, so they’re ready someday if the boss says, let’s go play golf with this client.
Q: How many students are involved in the golf program?
Right now we have 17 women. Three are dedicated to the sport of golf; the rest are two-sport athletes or 5-year seniors who have exhausted their eligibility in their primary sport and are going to use the final year of their eligibility for golf.
Q: The Athletics Department has been recognized for a number of community service initiatives. Why does the program devote so much time and attention to community service?
Community service is the foundation of Alverno; service is fundamental to the way we do business. One of the public initiatives the Athletics Department has undertaken is Cans Across the Conference, where all conference members compete to raise food items for local food pantries. Last year, our student athletes raised over 25,000 items – a number that exceeded the rest of the conference combined. For three years in a row, we’ve won the award for most cans collected.
All of our teams also do some cancer awareness work. One of the things we’re working on this year is partnering with Bethematch.org, part of the National Marrow Donor Program. Be The Match helps build the bone marrow transplant registry and matches people with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma with appropriate bone marrow donors. Our athletes and teams will be running some match events where people can be added to the donor registry.
There is a lot of passion behind these efforts, and it shows. Last year, we also won a national award for community service from Josten’s; we took honorable mention in the ongoing community service project category. Over 450 institutions qualified for that award. To win honorable mention meant we were in the top three.
Q: What else is new with the Athletics Department?
This year, we’ve formalized the incorporation of Alverno’s eight core abilities into our program. We’ve come up with nine outcomes that are unique to the athletics program and will give feedback on those outcomes.
We’ve had success across campus in learning, so our Athletics Department is doing its best to emulate that. We want to make Athletics as integral to the learning process as anything else here.