Athletics director at Roberts Wesleyan talks about career, competition, COVID-19 and what it feels like to work for his alma mater
By Ernst Lamothe
Q: What do you enjoy most about being at Roberts?
A: The best part is that I get to marry my faith within the workforce of my career choice. I have always thought it was incredibly important to be impactful in the lives of all students and student-athletes. There are not many places where your faith and career can merge. You can learn so much with faith and sports tied together seamlessly.
There are biblical lessons that you can teach within the arena of sports. In athletic competitions, there is mostly just one winner, so how can you find your worth and purpose if you are not always on the winning side? That is where biblical principles come in. If you can look yourself in the mirror and know you did everything you could to compete for yourself, your school and the gifts that God has given you, then you honored the sport, your teammates, the school and God.
This year, our athletics department was awarded the NCAA Division II Award of Excellence for its fundraising efforts in support of Golisano Children’s Hospital.
Q: How did your department navigate through COVID-19?
A: COVID-19 really put everything on its ear. When it first made the news and you were seeing footage of freezer trucks outside of New York City carrying people who had died, you didn’t know how this thing was going to affect so many people around the world. Then we had to quickly pivot with our teams because they were traveling all over for competition and had to immediately bring them back to Rochester. Even as things were getting better during this summer, there was a surge and we had to focus on keeping our college and students safe. As we were excited to come back in the fall, we also made a push to address the mental health of our students.
You don’t have a playbook for things of this magnitude but we believed we navigated it successfully.
Q: Talk about the work that went into the athletic department renovations
A: We worked hard to renovate the Voller Athletic Center, working with a team to complete improvements to the upper and lower levels of the building that included new office space, a new fitness center, new press boxes, a new athletic training room and a new weight room, as well as the Redhawk Roost and a bowling program. These are key advancements and amenities that support the success of student athletes and coaches today.
Our new turf field is for men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse, along with our student intramural program. We have been fortunate that we were able to keep things up to date and more state-of-the-art, all funded by the athletic department. We also have murals celebrating our great athletes of the past.
Q: How does it feel to make an impact at your alma mater?
A: This is what makes my job so special, being able to return here and give back. This is an institution that gave me so much. I was able to work here while getting my master’s degree in strategic leadership in 2013. Being able to come back and be a head coach and an athletic director is something that holds a special place with me. I will always be “team Roberts.”
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I just enjoy spending time with my family and working on projects with them. My wife, Laura, and I have three adult children and we try to be helpful to each of them. We invest in them now because we believe that is much better than giving them money at the end of life. We also like to travel and I enjoy sports. I root for my Roberts Redhawks and I have been a passionate Cleveland Browns fan for decades. We also enjoy time at our cottage near Lake Ontario.
Q: Why do you believe it is important to stay active as you get older?
A: Activity is the key to longevity. You have to keep yourself moving and using the talents God has given you by investing in others every day. I hear of people who retire and then spend all their time on their couch; that is not a great quality of life. You have to commit yourself to having a healthy lifestyle, watching your diet and staying physically fit so you can have some control of what is coming your way.
Retirement is just you moving to another chapter in your life, but that doesn’t mean the book is ending.
Robert Segave is director of athletics for Roberts Wesleyan College. He oversees all intercollegiate sports programs, including recruiting, hiring, training, supervising and assessing student-centered coaches and their development while building and maintaining a culture of scholarship, spiritual formation and service.