Mark Majeski: Athletics “great stuff” for student development
“There is a lot of opportunity in this window to do good things. There is a real impact that you see in the development of students - emotionally, physically, and mentally,” said Mark Majeski, athletic director for Linn-Benton Community College. “If we do our best work they are growing in all three of these areas.”
Majeski, a Bay Area, California native, loves athletics. He played basketball at Menlo College while studying for a degree in communication and journalism. After college, he took a job in an ad agency, although he really wanted to coach.
Not long after, the sports information director left Menlo College. It was August. The football team was arriving on campus and the need to fill the position was urgent. “They told me: ‘It’s part-time and it pays $6,000’ and I said ‘Sure, I’m there!’” recalled Majeski.
Majeski left his full-time job to take the position, while coaching the prep school’s basketball team and eventually its softball team as well. He pieced together a living with other jobs until his position became full time. “It was a blast. I was using my skills, gaining trust, responsibility,” he said.
That is, until the prep school and college divided, and Majeski was forced to choose: Make a living, or coach. He chose the paid job.
Over the next couple of decades, Majeski served as the athletic director at the University of California at Santa Cruz and then at Willamette University. He ran a business consulting with small college athletics departments. Athletic directors are responsible for hiring, mentoring, managing, and keeping coaches focused and unified as a department, in addition to budgeting, community and alumni relations, and fundraising. Majeski was able to use the management skills he had learned through his education and previous experience.
“I missed working on a campus,” he said. “You just don't have the same connection … you're in and then you're out.”
An opportunity at Linn-Benton Community College opened. LBCC had restructured and there were only four sports – much smaller than any department Majeski had worked for prior. It turned out to be his niche.
“I love this level of athletics,” said Majeski. “It's such a transitional period for student-athletes. We’re developing them for the next phase. There's a lot of good work that needs to happen in a short amount of time. It's really important.”
Since 2014, Linn-Benton has had a specific charge to focus on local students, so 80% of its student-athletes come from Oregon. LBCC’s coaches work their recruiting networks up and down the West Coast to find additional players.
All of LBCC’s coaches have had past experience working in four-year colleges or universities, which allows them to prepare students for what comes after LBCC. But not all of LBCC’s student-athletes want to continue to play their sport at a four-year institution.
“Sometimes we recruit students who just want to have a great experience and the opportunity to play at the college level,” said Majeski. “For example, we have engineering students who come here so they can play for their first two years, before they transfer to OSU.”
A fair number of LBCC’s student-athletes are in the college’s degree partnership program, which allows them to easily transfer to a partner four-year college—Oregon State University, Western Oregon University or the Oregon Institute of Technology—after completing a two-year associate degree at LBCC.
Majeski is quick to point out that there is evidence that athletics helps with student retention and with academics.
“These are good kids … smart kids with their heads on straight. And they are competitive. Where else can you learn how to fail and come back and then do it again and again like you can in athletics?,” asked Majeski.
“I mean, for student development, this is great stuff.”
You can learn more about athletics at Linn-Benton Community College by visiting the LBCC athletics website.