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November 21, 2018
In the World

Lasting Impact

Longtime Tiger Coach & Administrator Linda Arena Honored By Alma Mater

For Linda Arena, the 266 coaching wins at her alma mater, SUNY College of Brockport, and Wittenberg University are etched in her memory but perhaps faded a bit with time. However, the thrill of breaking ground for female student-athletes and sharing in their success years later never gets old, however.

A native of Batavia, NY, Arena returned to SUNY College of Brockport in October 2016 to receive one of the most significant honors a coach or athlete can receive. Brockport named its new field hockey venue at Eunice Kennedy Shriver Stadium in honor of Arena, who was a standout in both field hockey and softball prior to her graduation in 1969 and later a coach at the university for more than a decade.

“I was happy for my players,” said Arena, in response to a question asking what the naming project meant to her. “To see them again and hear their accomplishments - that they really did buy into my student-athlete first/sport second philosophy. I was thankful to my own professors who instilled in me the importance of not just winning contests but of publishing, speaking and committee service to share what you learned to help others become better.

“The field naming is a tribute to the way I tried to help others during my 40-year career. My hope is that it will also serve as a tribute to the players I coached to play with heart, compassion and joy.”

Arena said she knew she wanted to teach as soon as she began her collegiate career at Brockport. She was a key player on both the field hockey and softball teams throughout her collegiate career, and her success as a player carried over to her work as a teacher and coach almost immediately after graduation. Years later, she would experience “the proudest moment of my career” when she was inducted into the Brockport College Hall of Fame.”

“I truly believe that to teach is to touch a life forever. I believe that coaching is teaching. So playing took a back seat to finding the most effective way to bring smiles to the faces of my student-athletes. That meant winning through motivating players to reach their personal best, as well as outsmarting opposing coaches. I never cut an athlete, for those were the students that needed instruction the most.”
Linda Arena

As a coach at Brockport, Arena not only accommodated rosters numbering more than 60 student-athletes each year, but she led the Golden Eagles to the NCAA Division III Tournament three straight years. In 1981, Arena led the team to the national semifinals, marking the first time a Brockport women’s team has advanced that far in NCAA play.

She went on to find similar success coaching at Wittenberg, where she also served as a professor in the Department of Health Fitness and Sport and the university’s Director of Women’s Athletics for more than a decade, in addition to amassing 194 wins while leading the Tiger field hockey program for 16 seasons. She retired from coaching in 1998 and from teaching in 2012, but not before making important inroads on behalf of female student-athletes at Wittenberg and beyond.

“My first year coaching field hockey at Wittenberg, I’ll never forget driving a van back from a game and being told by my captains, ‘Coach, we just want to win sometimes’,” Arena said. “At that time, the tradition of Wittenberg athletics centered on the outstanding success of the football and men’s basketball teams. Not only did the women’s sports lack success – they didn’t have the resources to become successful. It became my quest to develop PRIDE in women athletes in every sport at the university.”

Arena was dogged in her pursuit of equity for women’s athletics, even making an impact nationally. She served on NCAA committees for both field hockey and softball, edited United States Field Hockey Association publications, and published articles about field hockey in the United States, Italy and Australia. She even wrote a book chronicling the history of women’s athletics at Wittenberg.

“I took on Title IX compliance and without tenure made numerous trips to the provost and president’s offices,” she said. “I remember taking money from my field hockey budget to give it to volleyball. We tackled needed budget increases, facility access, expanded schedules, and full-time and assistant coaches.

"Women’s sports excelled with the first-time NCAA Championship appearances in field hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, basketball and swimming. A solid foundation was laid for a successful women’s athletics program at Wittenberg.”

Arena continues to advocate on behalf of women’s athletics programs after she retired. She recently spearheaded a campaign for Brockport’s field hockey program, which raised more than $100,000.

Tiger Field Hockey
Linda Arena led Wittenberg University field hockey for nearly two decades and she remains the program's leader in victories and league championships. She laid the groundwork for today's program, which continues to provide an outstanding athletic and academic experience for its student-athletes.
Wittenberg University Field Hockey Home Page
Ryan Maurer
Ryan Maurer
Senior Writer and Web Communications Specialist

About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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