History has proven that being a teacher-coach at Springfield College is a recipe for success. Springfield College men’s volleyball coach Charlie Sullivan is no exception. After graduating from SC in 1991, Sullivan retraced his steps to Alden Street where the teacher-coach model posed as his dream career.
With 14 years now under his belt, Sullivan continues to motivate his students and athletes with the same dual-mentorship that caught his attention years ago when he was a Springfield student himself.
During his undergraduate years at Springfield College, Sullivan was inspired by one of the school’s most celebrated basketball coaches—Ed Bilik. The New England Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as the Springfield College Hall of Fame, enshrined Bilik for his decorated career in coaching basketball.
In 1971, Bilik coached the men’s basketball team toward a 63-62 victory over Julius “Dr. J” Erving and the University of Massachuesetts on the campus of Springfield College.
Sullivan says he remembers his first class at Springfield with Professor Bilik leaving him knowing that “this is the place for me.”
Sullivan knew that great coaches had walked the halls of Springfield College, as he watched how Bilik elevated his student-athletes.
“It was pretty instantaneous,” said Sullivan. “I fit right in here; I have always identified with Springfield College.”
After graduating, Sullivan went on to teach and coach at the high school level. But the young coach knew that returning to his alma mater would give him the best opportunity to be the type of teacher-coach that could really make an impact.
“It was pretty much a no-brainer,” said Sullivan.
One would assume that the responsibilities of teaching and coaching would be different and also difficult to manage. However, Sullivan quickly grew to learn that his impact on students at Springfield College was not limited in either setting.
“I take a similar approach to my coaching and teaching: expectation, organization and some leadership,” said Sullivan.
Many of his students will tell you that Professor Sullivan’s class is one-of-a-kind. Sullivan teaches sports psychology; the blending of sports, academics and Sullivan’s passion for the two creates a lively class.
“I just never want to have a boring class. I have to find different ways to motivate my students,” said Sullivan. “For me, it’s an hour of meditation on how to improve focus and eliminate distractions. I definitely benefit from teaching as well.”
As a teacher-coach, Sullivan is also given the opportunity to work closely with his volleyball players as both students and athletes. Nick Ferry is a sophomore volleyball player on Sullivan’s team and also a student in his class.
“He’s a very energetic teacher just like he is a coach,” said Ferry. “There is no down time in his class. You are always engaged in the lesson. It’s a great class; I’m really enjoying it.”
Sullivan sees his classroom time with his athletes as a great chance to motivate them even more. “It’s great having my athletes in class because I think they’re getting a little information about how to stay focused, eliminate distractions and play their best,” said Sullivan.
“I get to see them more, I’m more involved with their day here and it’s a great opportunity to have them in my class.”
With the ability to offer both academic and athletic guidance to student-athletes on campus, Sullivan has become a support system on multiple levels for his players. Greg Falcone, a junior on Sullivan’s 2012 squad, says his coach’s guidance has been instrumental in his time at SC.
“Coach has provided me with an outlet to all of my stresses that come with being a student-athlete,” said Falcone. “He provides a competitive, upbeat and positive environment surrounded by family every time we step on the court.”
Falcone said his teacher-coach has taught the entire volleyball team a valuable lesson.
“Coach has taught everyone in our program that a mistake is not a mistake until we fail to correct it,” said Falcone. “Both on and off the court, that is something I will take with me long after Springfield College. A mistake is simply an opportunity to better yourself.”
Amidst his 14th season as the Pride’s head men’s volleyball coach, Sullivan looks back at his already storied career on Alden Street knowing that coaching and teaching at Springfield College has been a unique experience.
“Maybe at other schools athletics are on the side with a ‘If it happens, it happens’ mentality, but athletics are part of the deal here,” said Sullivan.
While other schools may look past the benefits of athletics on education, Sullivan understands that sports and academics can flourish when combined – it has always been part of his personal curriculum.
“I see the teacher-coach model at Springfield College having an emphasis on the athletic aspect of the spirit, mind and body philosophy being academic, as well,” said Sullivan. “Not extra-curricular, but co-curricular.”