University of Indianapolis student-athletes return to coach after graduating

Coaching and playing sports are two different experiences. For seven current coaches at the University of Indianapolis, they have experienced both.

Graduating from Lawrence North High School in 2008, Assistant Football Coach Collin Coffer said he came to UIndy on a football scholarship. After receiving an All-GLIAC Honorable Mention his senior year, Coffer said he returned to UIndy in a graduate coaching position not long after graduating.

“[I] did a couple combines and it didn’t work out,” Coffer said. “Which is a good thing I think, a blessing in disguise, because my head coach asked me if I wanted to possibly be a grad assistant in the fall… haven’t looked back ever since.”

Coffer said his experience as a student made him know the culture and heartbeat of the university. He said the university and football program changed his life, and he hopes to affect players the same way his coaches affected him.

“I [was] always taught that you can take what you want if you want it, and you have to go for it,” Coffer said. “Nothing is going to be given to you, and that’s the lesson I learned early from playing and coaching.”

Photo by Tony Reeves Left to right: Head Cross Country Coach Brad Robinson, Wide Receiver Coach Colin Coffer, Head Soccer Coach John Higgins and Head Baseball Coach Al Ready are all alumni of their respective programs.

Head Baseball Coach Al Ready said once he completed his undergrad at UIndy, former Head Baseball Coach Gary Vaught offered him a position as a graduate assistant. He said that playing and recruiting for Vaught influenced his coaching philosophy. Ready said he knew the game types and play styles Vaught liked to incorporate. Transitioning into his current position as head coach, Ready said he continued Vaught’s coaching styles, while also balancing other play styles to account for chilly weather in early spring.  He said being an alumnus made him a better recruiter because he knew the experiences of both a UIndy student and an athlete.

“You can recruit all you want as a recruiter, but I lived the experience, which I think is very important,” Ready said.

Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sue Willey said she has held multiple positions since graduating from UIndy in 1975. In terms of coaching, Willey said she coached five sports over a period of 23 years. Since one of the responsibilities of her current position is personnel management, Willey said she is involved in the hiring process. She said that when looking for people to hold coaching positions, the department has looked for people who were at a high level academically and athletically.

“That’s the combination we’re really looking for, as well as the understanding that [coaches] know that students are here to get a degree,” Willey said. “I talk about coaches that get it, so those [graduate] coaches get it.”

Willey said there have been coaches who were great spokespersons for their sports, but they didn’t work well for the department. When coaches are recruiting, Willey said they need to sell the university, not just the sport. 

“I always offer to my coaches that if they want to bring in any of their prospective student-athletes, I’ll meet with them,” Willey said. “I think they see the longevity of some of our coaches as well as myself, and they go ‘wow, it must be a pretty doggone good place.’”

Willey said that graduate coaches have a smooth transition from being a student to coaching. She said that student-athletes already know them, and they know how to sell the university as well as their sport. 

“A good coach improves your game, a great coach improves your life,” Willey said. “That’s what I want our coaches to do, and I think when [coaches have] come up through that system… it’s so easy to then carry forward.”

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