Division III sports offer a unique experience for both players and coaches alike. Coaches at UTD primarily stick with DIII because of the opportunities for relationship building and player development.
Women’s head soccer coach Kanute Drugan’s coaching pedigree stems from constantly hearing sports talk while growing up. His father and grandfather both coached at the high school level.
“I was in that environment where (I was) around (my father and grandfather) and their colleagues so (coaching) was a natural idea for me,” he said. “Often times other coaches would come to our home and my dad would sit with them around the kitchen table or on the porch and they would talk coaching. I would sit somewhere nearby so I wasn’t interfering, but where I could listen in.”
He’s taken bits and pieces of various coaching and leadership styles in order to forge his own, Drugan said.
“I read books, especially autobiographies, of leaders in general whether they be military, sports or business leaders,” he said. “I draw from a lot of sources that aren’t necessarily athletics. I like the concepts and philosophies that go with leadership. As far as coaching goes … I draw a lot from Lou Holtz, Bear Bryant, Spark Anderson and a number of people in basketball like Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Red Auerbach.”
Through the years, Drugan’s coaching style has changed.
“I’m rather quiet these days,” he said. “I like to teach, (but) in soccer you can’t call a timeout and teach anything. What I like about soccer is that the teaching aspect happens in the practice environment, which is the classroom environment for the sport. When practices are over and the game is the next day it’s out of your hands.”
Coaching a Division III sport allows the players to have a more balanced experience. There aren’t strict requirements to abide by in comparison to other divisions.
“At the Division I (level) … you almost have to have a law degree to understand all the rules and regulations you have to commit to (in order) to be successful,” Drugan said. “I like the fact that (student-athletes) get to have another life outside of the sport and that I don’t have a rule that’s all intrusive.”
Men’s head basketball coach Terry Butterfield said he’s stayed coaching at the Division III level for so long because it suits his personality best.
“I’m really passionate about coaching kids at this level,” he said. “I think (Division III) is the purest form of athletics because the kids are here to be students first and athletes second. The kids that we’re able to recruit to (UTD) … have high levels of motivation, they’re hard workers, they’re enthusiastic, they’re smart and they have good ideas. I can collaborate with the kids here because of the level of their intelligence.”
UTD’s basketball system is patterned after the University of Michigan’s. Butterfield was able to spend some productive time with the current U of M head coach John Beilein. Even though the team models its play after Beilein’s principles, Butterfield said his coaching inspiration still stems from his father.
“My father was revered as a coach in upstate New York,” he said. “He’s in the National College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend. I got a chance to see it done by the very best. It doesn’t really make any difference what the sport is. It’s all the same.”
At the Division III level, student-athletes often play through their eligibility en route to completing their degree. Volleyball head coach Marci Sanders said it’s a unique job because she’s around these kids for four years as opposed to other professions.
“What (assistant coach Zach Villarreal) and I like to say is that we’re the cool aunt and uncle,” Sanders said. “We don’t like to try and be their parents even though one of my favorite quotes is ‘Coaching is parenting and parenting is coaching.’ I say that a lot with our kids because we kind of take off where their parents leave. We vow to the parents that we’re going to take care of their kids.”
The team likes to have a good time, but when they’re out on the floor it’s time to work. Overall, she has a good working relationship with her players.
“We tell (our players) all the time that it’s not about winning, it’s about playing together and playing hard and hopefully the winning takes care of itself,” Sanders said.