By Peter Burditt
Mark Webb, Sewanee’s veteran athletic director, has ushered the athletic department through a year of uncertainty and change. As he begins his twenty sixth year at the University, Webb said this is an unfamiliar period that has “no play book or no plan.” Despite this, he believes the entire athletic department, including himself, has to be “nimble, flexible, and patient in what we do.” As Sewanee’s campus enters another semester dominated by COVID concerns, Webb brings the experience and humility to adapt the athletic department to new pressures.
Despite the decision to not allow off-campus travel for athletics this semester, Webb said the athletic department “still has their big goals with what they do.” However, at Sewanee and across the country , those goals can get sidetracked due to ensuring the safety of staff and student athletes.
“You know we’re trying to strike that balance between doing what we know to do, but while keeping everybody safe,” Webb said.
Keeping the athletic community engaged and safe is not easy and requires flexibility.
“We have to understand that moving forward that perhaps not everyone is in a good place, whether it’s a student, athlete, or a staff member,” Webb said.
He also added that the current situation has taught him “candidly, is to listen better and respond as needed.” As a leader Webb, has successfully been able to ingrain this within himself and his colleagues, which has made a significant difference in these hectic times.
Webb and the rest of the Athletic’s Department’s constant theme is that “one person can’t do it all.” Which is in direct correlation to the fact that Sewanee has a small and tight knit division three athletic program that only works if everybody is in fact helping with everything.
Webb gave an example of this from last weekend, when the University held seven athletic events on campus. In a show of support for Sewanee student athletes, Webb pitched in to help run the events and spent his weekend “shagging balls at a women’s soccer match.”
Webb’s drive, ability to listen, and humility set the tone for the solidarity between everyone involved in athletics. All of these factors support an essential goal for Webb and the Athletic Department, which he says is to “support our coaches who can support our student athletes….So it can be an outlet from their everyday lives.”
This sentiment embodies what Webb’s career has focused on in general, and especially during the uncertain conditions Sewanee athletics is currently facing.
As Webb and the rest of the athletic teams go deeper into their unconventional seasons, the only more crucial Webb’s leadership becomes. Although, if anyone is up to the task it is Sewanee Athletics admirable and trusted leader. Webb has more than what it takes to lead coaches, athletes, and administrators in the right direction through this period in Sewanee athletics.