Now that she has a year in the job, William & Mary Athletics Director Samantha Huge is ready to build upon last year’s success and attract more Tribe fans.
“I think that, from a listening standpoint, I learned so much about William and Mary and about the Tribe,” Huge said. “And what I learned just confirmed what I had imagined and had been told and what I thought was the case — and that is we have such an incredible base of support from our students to our alums to our administrators to the board to the community at large.
“And I am really excited to have listened to them this year, what their dreams and aspirations are for Tribe athletics, and how, as a department, we really can be a catalyst and part of the overall mission of the institution,” she said.
One of her immediate goals is to increase the participation of students and other Tribe fans in athletics. Getting games and events on network television is a work in progress.
“In the immediate future, my hope is that we see an uptick in participating from our fans and our supporters,” Huge said. “That our student athletes really have the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of more people, whether that is in person or through the media.”
The return of Julie Shackford, a 1988 graduate, to the university as the head coach for women’s soccer at the end of last year marked a victory for Tribe athletics and Huge, who is eager to watch the program grow behind an experienced Tribe alum.
Huge emphasizes that Shackford isn’t the only key to success this season, but that every coach, athlete and staff member is a vital part of the machine that is Tribe athletics.
“We really have an incredible group of coaches and staff that are excited to lead our student athletes, and student athletes that are just thrilled, I think, to be getting back and getting started,” Huge said.
While the Tribe has brought in new leaders like Shackford and women’s volleyball head coach Tim Doyle, the program is also saying goodbye to long-standing names like women’s tennis head coach Tyler Thomson, women’s tennis associate head coach Jesse Medvene-Collins and football head coach Jimmye Laycock.
“The announcement about Coach Laycock … what a legacy,” Huge said. “This man has given for decades to an institution — that’s unheard of. He (has) big shoes to replace, and I look forward this season to really honoring and celebrating Coach Laycock and making sure that the world knows how special he is and what he has meant to us.”
Huge emphasized that while academic excellence comes first for university athletes, Tribe athletics wants to see this high standard in competition as well.
“We want our student athletes to have the opportunity to compete for championships,” Huge said. “Knowing that, we are leading them as a department in one voice. To really pursue excellence across the board in their academic life, their athletic life and in their social life.”
A comprehensive approach
The success of student athletes is at the forefront of Tribe athletics’ objectives, whether physically, mentally and emotionally. To ensure all elements of health are being met, a new comprehensive approach has been implemented.
“We’ve hired a person who comprehensively is looking at sports performance from a standpoint of nutrition, strength and conditioning and sports medicine,” Huge said. “… I would say that was one of the greatest things we have accomplished, was bringing a comprehensive approach to our student athletes.”
As part of the athletics program’s identity overhaul, Huge recently oversaw the recent launch of a new logo.
“When we set out on this, I met with our folks on campus and really talked about the need to, one, not lose Tribe,” Huge said. “It’s our ethos, it’s who we are. I never want us not to be the Tribe. But then also having the opportunity to really tie ourselves to William and Mary.”
Although Huge looks forward to the day when her achievements are discussed as part of the accomplishments of athletic directors rather than that of specifically “female” athletic directors, she both understands and appreciates why it’s important to distinguish the success of women.
“You can point to so many women who in the past 12 to 18 months have earned the spot of athletic director,” Huge said. “It’s exciting for me, especially as I look at the women who came before me, and the men who opened doors for us, but the women who came before us and on whose shoulders we stand … there’s a sense of wanting to honor them and honor what they did to get us to this point, and, in so doing, prepare the way for the next generation of women who are coming after us.”
As far as changes for the future, a conversation with a member of the Student Assembly reinforced Huge’s desire to focus on making Tribe athletics a core part of the overall experience for all students at the university.
“I’m really excited about, this year, figuring out a way to really embrace that and have our students take real pride in their athletics program and their classmates that are participating and competing, and how we can really be a part of that,” Huge said.
With these goals in mind, Huge is ready for this year to get going.
“We are part of an enterprise that gets to every day impact the process through which students learn and grow and develop,” Huge said. “I think there is no greater good than that.”