For these alumni athletes, their chosen sport has continued to play an important role in their lives after Colgate. And, it’s taught them some valuable lessons.
Illustrations by Andy Potts
Playing it Forward
After years of coaching soccer, Chris White ’96 brings a generous spirit to the game with his new nonprofit.
When Chris White ’96 was 9 years old, his family traveled to Japan with his dad, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina. His parents put him in a Japanese immersion school, and little Chris was hooked by the very un-Americanness of it all. “Since then, I’ve loved different foods and languages and styles of dress,” he says. “It’s become a huge part of me.”
Most recently, he’s parlayed that enthusiasm into a free, after-school soccer program in Maine that he started for the children of Somali immigrants and other youth unable to afford traditional programs. The nonprofit taps into the kids’ inherent passion for the sport to provide support and community, build character, and develop skills for better life outcomes.
His affinity for other cultures got a boost at Colgate, which he chose for its small classes, plentiful snow, and Division I soccer — a contrast to the big state school, mild weather, and basketball frenzy of his Carolina youth. As a sociology and anthropology major, he grabbed the opportunity to spend a semester abroad in Australia studying Aboriginal culture, even though his soccer coach wasn’t happy to lose his star goalkeeper. Upon graduating, White headed to Eastern Europe, bopping around and taking odd jobs before settling in Budapest to pursue a master’s degree in environmental studies granted by the University of Manchester.
He eventually returned to Chapel Hill to enroll in a PhD program but balked at the prospect of writing a dissertation and ended up with an MS in ecology. That led to a career as a science teacher for middle and high schoolers in Maine, the Bronx, and Salt Lake City, followed by a move to coaching women’s soccer at colleges, including Amherst, University of Miami, Duke, and even Colgate (for two seasons in 2011 and 2012). His last gig at Chowan University — his first as head coach — presented a new set of challenges and rewards. “It was a Division II team that was the worst in America,” he says. “I wanted to take it to the top. And it was an amazing experience — we shot the moon. We went from Animal House to character-rich kids, from a 1–12 record to 12–2 in two years.”
But his good friend had recently died, and White began to question what he was doing with his life. “It was like the hand of God grabbed me by the neck,” he says, “and gave me a good shake.” His thoughts turned to Maine, where he had lived in 2001 — a time when the first waves of Somali refugees arrived. He knew there was an ongoing crisis, so in 2018 he moved to Lewiston, where approximately 6,000 refugees still live, and taught in the school system for a year before starting a nonprofit called Rosati Leadership Academy (RLA), named to honor the friend, Chris Rosati, who had inspired him.
In preparing to get the ball rolling, White visited community mosques, met with local Somali leaders, and even took Somali language lessons. He learned a lot about the community, he says. Many were “struggling families, with a large number of children, who had no car, no cellphone, and were sharing shoes and equipment from one sibling to the next.” Since youth sports often adds yet another cost to that burden, he determined that RLA programs would be free, would ditch uniforms to minimize expenses, and be located within walking distance for most. On the first evening of practice, 25 kids showed up; since then, approximately 350 Lewiston students have participated in the free program.
White says he chose soccer not because of any special love for the game, but because he “was good at it, and it gave me confidence. Things really changed, though,” he says, “when I started working in schools and saw what a powerful impact being on a team could have. These kids don’t realize they’re learning to solve problems and practice good sportsmanship. That’s the vegetable portion of the meal. The soccer is the ice cream.”
Coming Full Circle
Brittney Brooks ’15 mines her neuroscience major to up her game as a youth hockey coach.
Growing up in a desert town like Las Vegas, most kids crave an after-school dip in the pool. Brittney Brooks ’15 found a different way to stay cool — by hitting the ice. “My parents owned a skating rink, so it became our backyard, basically,” she says. “My brother and I played hockey all day. It became my entire world.”
As a blossoming goalie, Brooks benefited from being coached by NHL professionals like Pokey Reddick and Ken Quinney, Canadian snowbirds who had decided to stay in town after retiring. “It was an incredible experience,” she says, “but since I was playing on boys’ teams, I felt like an outsider.”
At Colgate, Brooks played on the women’s hockey team all four years, at last finding the camaraderie she had sought. Armed with a behavioral science degree, she moved back home and worked in children’s psychology for a few years. Eventually, she decided to combine her interests by coaching young hockey players. She currently works full time running youth programming for her parents’ rink, and she also serves as the goalie coach and girls hockey director for the Las Vegas Storm, a youth hockey organization.
It’s more about getting the results that you want through motivation and positive reinforcement. It’s about fun, not fear.Brittney Brooks ’15
“Coaching youth sports has changed a lot since when I played,” she observes. “I remember messing up drills and the coaches getting angry and having the team just skate around for the rest of practice,” she continues. “Now, it’s more about getting the results that you want through motivation and positive reinforcement. It’s about fun, not fear.”
Brooks may sound like a budding Ted Lasso, but it’s not always easy to convince everyone of the merits of this gentler mentality. “Parents want us to go tougher on their kids,” she says. “I recently sat down with a dad whose 12-year-old was upset by him yelling at her during every game. He thought he was being encouraging, but I explained that maybe just clapping when she scored instead of screaming directions to her might be a better approach.
“It was intimidating for me at first,” she elaborates, “but I’ve come to realize that I’m the one who’s leading the team.”
As Brooks contemplates her future — she and her brother will likely take over the family business once her parents retire — she remembers, “what I really loved about hockey [was] playing for fun. And that’s what I try to emphasize to the kids I work with.”
Checking All The Boxes
With decades of experience as a hockey scout, David Conte ’71 talks about what it takes to play in the NHL.
“Hockey is a birthright in Canada,” says David Conte ’71, who grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and is now a special assignment scout for the New York Islanders. “You just do it.” He ticks off several of the kids from his working-class neighborhood who wound up in the majors: Tommy Earl ’70 played for the Hartford Whalers, Derek Sanderson for the Boston Bruins, Jim Bedard for the Detroit Red Wings, John Arbour for the St. Louis Blues, and Phil Roberto for the Montreal Canadiens. “It was an impressive group of athletes for a six-block area,” Conte observes. “Competing every day and coexisting with each other was a challenge and a privilege. Those with drive and heart survived; you can’t beat genetics, but it’s wasted without character.”
Play The Game
Conte began his own career at Colgate, where he entered on a hockey scholarship and exited as team MVP for his senior year. A five-year tour of Europe, where he played professionally in Italy and Finland, followed. “I rose as far as my talents took me,” he says, “and the opportunities that came my way led to scouting. It was the right career for me. I’ve been intimately involved in the sport at the highest level.”
Count on character.
Scouting for the Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, Las Vegas Golden Knights, and New York Islanders, Conte has drafted approximately 200 players into the NHL. “The accomplishment is in recognizing not just their talent, but also their character,” he says. “A lot of people can be good at what they do — but are not necessarily ‘good.’ So, I’d ask myself: Would I like to play with this guy? Would I like to play against him? How does he think the game should be played? Is he looking for the team’s glory, or his own? You learn to recognize the players who can answer those questions in the ways you’re looking for.”
The relationships he developed with players whose careers he launched remain Conte’s favorite part of his life’s work. “I look back at the players who were 17 when I first met them, and they’re in their 50s now. I’ve watched them grow up. They became superstars or not-superstars, they might be scouts or agents or in management. And I think, wow, I had something to do with bringing them into this big family.”
Winning isn’t everything … but it sure feels good.
During Conte’s three decades with the Devils, the team picked up three Stanley Cups. When he joined the Golden Knights, the expansion team made it to the finals right out of the starting gate. “It’s euphoric, assembling a winning team,” he says. “I had the Stanley Cup in my home and invited all of the neighbors over to see it.
“When you win, you know how lucky you were. It gives you humility. I counsel players that, in the end, they will be remembered more for the teammate they were than the awards they won.”
Finding A Spot in the Major Leagues
After a decade in basketball, Todd Checovich ’07gets called to the big leagues to scout for the best big men.
It had taken Todd Checovich ’07 a speedy six years with the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves — moving up through the ranks of basketball operations and scouting — to assume the position of general manager for its G-League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves. “It was a great experience because I ended up having so much more control than I ever did with the big club,” he observes. “Plus, I was able to keep a hand in continuing with my college scouting duties.”
He thought he had reached the pinnacle of his career in minor league basketball, but after a round of staffing shake-ups, Checovich suddenly found himself without a job in mid-2019. “You go into this business knowing that you’re hired to be fired,” he says with a rueful chuckle. “But it was a very challenging time — and then COVID-19 hit.”
As the league shut down and opportunities to find new work dwindled, Checovich questioned whether he would even stay in basketball. He and his wife started a real estate investing firm. Then, one day last fall, the Timberwolves reached out to gauge his interest in coming back. Checovich couldn’t believe his ears — “never in a million years did I think that would happen” — and he happily returned, assuming full scouting duties, this time for the pro team. “It’s a step back in a way, but there’s a saying in the NBA: ‘You gotta stay on the bus,’” he says. “Now, I’m on a path to continue up the ladder in the big leagues.”
Checovich gravitated toward basketball growing up in New Hampshire, then played guard at Colgate, where he majored in history. After a few years’ break, he entered law school at Villanova University to study sports law, and in his final year connected with a fellow Villanova Law/Colgate grad in Philadelphia, sports agent Michael Siegel ’92. “He became a mentor,” says Checovich. “I learned so much about the business…. But once I graduated from law school, I started thinking, ‘I don’t know if this world is for me and my personality.’ It was a little too exhausting and cutthroat for me. I thought working on the team side might be a better fit.”
While studying for his bar exam, he landed an unpaid internship — “while most of my friends were grabbing lucrative attorney spots” — for the Maine Red Claws (the minor league team for the Boston Celtics). “I wore a lot of hats,” he says. “I was on court with the players, but also driving the team van. I was helping out with analytics, but also doing the laundry. Colgate really set me up for dealing with that balance,” he adds. “I remember [as a student] riding many a bus home from a game against Bucknell or Holy Cross late at night and trying to write a paper that was due the next day.”
When the Timberwolves recruited him a year later for a real, albeit entry-level job, he got into his car and drove out to Minneapolis, site unseen. He spent most of his days picking up drafting prospects at the airport, but by his second year, he was out scouting, and in year three, named manager of basketball operations. Toss in the GM stint for the minor league team that followed and, now, the major league scouting position — where he’s keeping up to speed on potential trade targets and upcoming free agents — and Checovich has covered the basketball court from just about all angles.
“I feel so fortunate to be able to work in my passion,” Checovich observes. It doesn’t feel like work. I mean, the reaction that I get from people when I tell them I get paid to watch basketball is always the same: ‘That’s so cool!’”
One of the premier tennis players in Patriot League history, Samantha Kohn ’99 is still an ace at keeping balls in the air.
What started you down the tennis path?
It was all around me — my parents played tennis, [and] I started playing tournaments as an 8-year-old. My sister and I played doubles in high school and when I was a freshman, we came in third in the Wisconsin state championship. So, when it came time for me to choose a college, tennis was a big factor. When I was a senior in high school, I met with Scott Thielke and he recruited me for Colgate women’s tennis. It felt like the perfect place to continue playing competitive tennis while getting a great education.
Where did your life take you?
I was a double major in French and sociology/anthropology, so after graduation, I moved to New York City to work for a French company. I also joined a tennis team. Then, I went abroad to get my MBA in France and wound up finishing it at the school’s Arizona campus, where I met my husband. I played tennis. Then we moved to California, where I worked for Buena Vista Home Entertainment in marketing and I played more tennis. Seventeen years ago, we moved to Costa Rica, where my husband is from. I eventually started an event planning company and then a luxury travel company.
Has your experience as a competitive tennis player helped you as a business owner?
Definitely. At Colgate, I was constantly moving between trying to do well academically, showing up for tennis practice, and maintaining some kind of social life. Today, I rely on those self-motivation skills for the juggling of running my businesses and raising my two boys.
You recently returned to competitive play — why?
I’ve played tennis for fun and fitness all along, but just this past year when I took my kids back home to Wisconsin, as we do every summer, a friend asked me to join her team in Milwaukee. We won the state, then the Midwest regionals, then went on to the USTA Nationals. We came in sixth in the country. It made me realize how much I wanted to play in tournaments. I missed being part of a team, having something to work toward, and being motivated to improve your game.
Any advice for young tennis players?
By playing tournaments, you will get better and become more confident, more used to the pressure. Tennis is a physical game, but you need to be mentally tough in order to win matches.
Student-athletes discuss their Colgate experiences and where they see themselves after graduation.
Noemi Neubauerova ’22
- Women’s ice hockey, forward, #21
- Psychological and brain sciences major; writing and rhetoric minor
Upon return from competing in the 2022 Winter Olympics with her home country’s team, the Czech Republic: “I am still feeling a lot of mixed emotions. It was a whole different world because I was with the best athletes from around the world. It was also a great honor representing my country because it opened the eyes of many people back home who did not know about women’s hockey in Czech or did not support it in the past. I am also extremely happy for being able to inspire little girls playing hockey in Czech and showing them that hockey is for everyone.”
“I enjoy psychology because learning about the human mind and behavior excites me. I have been able to understand my own behavior a lot better since I started my major. This includes instances in my daily life as well as when I play hockey. In the future, I would like to do something psychology related [careerwise], [possibly] sports psychology.”
“Playing at the Olympics has been my dream since I started hockey, and having that accomplishment makes me want to work even harder to prepare for the next Olympic games.”
Neubauerova marks the third consecutive time Colgate women’s hockey was represented at the Winter Olympics. Previous Olympians, who both played for Switzerland: Livia Altmann ’19 in the 2014 games, and Nicole Gass ’16
Tucker Richardson ’22
- Men’s basketball, guard, #15
- This season, he became the first player in program history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 400 assists.
- Sociology major
“I can’t imagine my Colgate basketball experience going any better up until this point. Going to three NCAA tournaments has been unbelievable, and along the way, I have created friendships and bonds that I’ll cherish forever.”
“I have really enjoyed the sociology department because it has pushed me out of my comfort zone. In some of my classes, I have had tough conversations, and many of those conversations have continued outside of the classroom.”
“My plan is to come back and play at Colgate for my fifth year. After that, I hope to play professionally and continue with the game I have put so much into over the years. Wherever that takes me in the world, I am excited for the opportunity.”
Richardson co-created the podcast ShotQuality with his roommate Simon Gerszberg ’23, and it’s taken off nationally. Gerszberg has built analytics and statistics that measure a basketball team’s success; Richardson provides the
player’s perspective. More than 40 NCAA teams have used ShotQuality’s Insights.
Dominique Groguhe ’23
- Track and field
- Events: discus, weight throw, hammer, and shot put
- Biology major, psychology minor
“Being part of the track team at Colgate has provided me with a strong support group. It’s a great feeling knowing I’ll always have teammates ready to support me in all my endeavors on and off
“I have loved biology for as long as I can remember. What I have enjoyed most about biology here is how hands-on it is. Most of the classes for my major require a lab component where everything we learn is integrated and implemented in a tactile way (huge fan of tactile learning!).”
“After I graduate, I want to pursue a career in genetics. I’m not sure what the future looks like for my track and field career, but I [also] want to stay involved in the sport for as long as I can. If I have the opportunity to compete post-grad, that’s something I definitely want to do. If I’m close to home after I graduate, seeing if I can help out with my high school’s track team is something I could see myself doing too.”
Groguhe does a lot of work on campus through ALANA. “Being able to have a space like ALANA has been so important to my Colgate experience. It [is] the first place where I really felt seen and heard. The first time I ever worked with ALANA, I was asked to do a student-athletes of color panel. It was great being given the space to talk about my experiences and thoughts. [It] cemented in my mind that this was a place and community I wanted to be a part of.”
Justin Song ’22
- Swimming and diving
- Events: Song competes in several events, including the 200-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle, 200-yard butterfly, and 200-yard IM
- English major with a creative writing emphasis; economics minor
Reporting from the Patriot League Championships: “It’s really nice to be back in person. [It was canceled last year due to COVID.] It’s nice to feel the atmosphere again, to be around all the other teams.”
“To be successful in this sport, you need to have teammates and competitors whom you’re friends with. Teammates become like family. And with competitors, camaraderie [makes it more] fun. It’s more than just showing up and trying to get a new best time. If you’re just racing yourself, it becomes boring.”
“My proudest moment is when I became an upperclassman and I had underclassmen asking me for advice. It’s important to be that role model for the younger guys.”
“Creative writing [has] allowed me to learn more about myself as a person.”
“I plan on attending law school. I interned at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office the summer after my first year, and the following summer I did a virtual internship with the New York City Criminal Court. Last summer, I did research at the NYU Law Center — a lot about restorative justice, and I’m currently super interested in that kind of work.”
Song has been swimming competitively since age 6.
$25 Million Gift to Transform Reid Athletic Center
Trustee Emeritus Chase Carey ’76, his wife, Wendy, and their children, Steve ’12 and Tara ’13, have made a transformative $25 million gift to spearhead a comprehensive renovation of the Reid Athletic Center and support other elements of the University’s Third-Century Plan.
The gift provides $23 million for a much-needed renovation of the Reid Athletic Center. The Carey family will also provide $1 million to support the University’s club rugby program and an additional $1 million for Colgate’s Center for Freedom and Western Civilization.
Built in 1959 and designed for a student body of just 1,500 men, Reid no longer meets the physical, technological, or programmatic standards necessary to support a modern, nationally competitive Division I athletics program and Colgate’s 25 varsity teams. A
reimagined Reid will provide state-of-the-art facilities and a dynamic game day atmosphere for student-athletes while welcoming families, students, alumni, and fans to the University.
Plans call for a performance arena in a newly constructed south wing (replacing the portion of the building that now houses the old Starr Rink) that will serve as the home for the volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball teams. It will include dedicated locker rooms, lounges, and film rooms to promote learning, preparation, connection, and recruiting. At 35,000 square feet, the new arena will provide, on average, 85% more square footage per student-athlete than is currently available. The arena will be designed to serve as a site for a wide array of University events.
The Reid renovation, when fully developed, will result in additional sport office suites; locker rooms for softball, field hockey, golf, and men’s and women’s tennis; visitor locker rooms; a new football suite; and a health and performance center that nearly doubles the size of existing facilities and integrates Colgate’s sports medicine, strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, and mental health and performance programs.
Chase Carey has made significant contributions to Colgate during the last several decades, resulting in gifts to the University of more than $35 million. He was an active member of the leadership group that helped construct the Class of 1965 Arena and also played an instrumental role in establishing the Trudy Fitness Center, which bears his mother’s name. He and Wendy are members of the Campaign Leadership Council.