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Exercise science professor Michael Lockard talks his experiences as a collegiate athlete

James Willis

Sports editor

jdwillis@willamette.edu


Managing academic responsibilities while training to compete on the field can be challenging for collegiate student-athletes. One Willamette professor in the exercise and health science department, Michael Lockard, relates to these challenges since he was a student-athlete in college as well. Lockard, who has been teaching at Willamette since the fall of 2007, played lacrosse for four years at Springfield College in Massachusetts. 


When asked why he chose Springfield College, he said, “For me, I chose Division III because academics needed to come first, and I looked for types of schools with my academic programs with decent lacrosse programs. They were consistently in the top 20 for men’s lacrosse. I was lightly recruited by bigger schools, but they didn’t offer the education that I wanted.”


Lockard noted that he doesn’t see a large difference between his experience as a Division III athlete and the experience of a Willamette student-athlete. “As a spring semester athlete, we often couldn’t get to the practice field at prime afternoon times, so we had practice at five in the morning. Then we would have to run to class, and the challenges that come with that whether it was being present mentally or staying awake because we would be physically exhausted. Lots of those experiences are pretty common.”


When asked about his favorite memory as a collegiate student-athlete, Lockard named two. The first was: “About halfway through my freshman season, my coach came up to me after a game and let me know that I would be starting in the next game. That meant a lot to me, because I had been working my tail off and was competing with upperclassmen, many of whom were All-Americans in high school. So that was a great moment.” 


Lockard described the second as: “Just a general experience of being part of the team, the accumulation of events, experiences and interactions as part of that group. Once you are on the team, you are part of a group and they support what you do. I haven’t found any more inclusive and supportive group than my team, besides from immediate family members. They support you academically, and are sort of your family while you are away at school. Many students start getting homesick during the spring semester, but as spring athletes you have games during spring break and can’t go home. So the team is like your family, and are all there to support you.”


When asked how he found out about Willamette, Lockard said: “I was looking for a place like Willamette, I wasn’t aware of its reputation before I found them. I was looking for a smaller school like Willamette in the way that most students do. Academically focused and a place to have real relationships with professors, [where] I could focus first on teaching. Research is important and still goes on, but the priority is teaching and that’s what I wanted to do.” 


Lockard said that when he first arrived on the west coast, there was much less attention given to lacrosse. “When I was in high school, lacrosse was just another sport on the list, and was given as much attention as any other sport. When I first arrived here, there were barely any high school teams. But now there are more and more teams popping up. Even in the local Salem community, there are a few clubs.”


When asked how athletics helped him in his professional career, Lockard said: “For me, I had always participated in sports, it was always team sports. There is a certain sense of collaboration of dependency in all aspects of the game, the skill set of working with people, depending on collaborators, is a really important professional skill. My colleagues in my department, every one of us brings different skill sets to the job, but we need to find a way to identify our goals together and reach those goals together. More specifically to college, time management is a good skill to have. Not only athletes, as we all have extracurriculars. For me it was athletics, how can we meet these demands when you have extra obligations.”


On attending athletic events at Willamette, Lockard said, “I was really good about it when I first arrived but when I had kids that dropped off, but now that they are older we make more of an effort to get out to games. It’s meaningful to get out to events that students are in, not just athletics.”

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