May 23, 2024

Philip Pierce: On the Ball

Philip Pierce was kicking a ball around nearly as soon as he learned to walk. He hasn’t stopped since. He eventually earned a “walk-on” spot on James Madison University’s Men’s Soccer team and dreamed of one day coaching a college team.

But when he was offered the role of UMW’s director of athletic development – a new position he could help shape – he took it, returning to his hometown of Fredericksburg five years ago.

“God opened up this door instead,” he said, “and I’ve been an Eagle ever since.”

Director of Athletic Development Philip Pierce. Photo by Alex Sakes.

Pierce oversees the Eagle Club, the fundraising arm of UMW Athletics, raising money for the department and helping the university’s 27 sport teams supplement their operating budgets. He’s also behind a number of events, from Eagle Nation Day to Homecoming and UMW Athletics Leadership Academy.

This week, UMW Athletics celebrates Division III Week, which recognizes the impact student athletes have on campus and in the community. Division III schools focus on a well-rounded college experience that includes rigorous academics, community service and other extra-curricular interests.

That’s part of what attracted Pierce to the job in the first place.

Q: Why is Division III Week important?
A: Part of it is educating our community on what it really means to be a Division III student athlete. To lift up our more than 600 student athletes, we are telling their stories on this week. When they win, we all win.

Q: How do students benefit from the Athletics Department?
A: My hope is that our student athletes have more structure, accountability and support from their teammates and coaches. Building an environment for them that emphasizes excellence in the classroom, excellence in our community and excellence in athletic competition will prepare them for successful careers and joyful lives.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: Working with teammates (colleagues) in my department and teammates across the campus community for one common purpose: Mary Washington students. It’s a big bonus when I get to watch our student athletes win a big game or play for championships!

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: NCAA Division III student athletes are not allowed to receive any athletic scholarships like DII or DI. The big schools we all watch on TV are able to fundraise specifically to bolster scholarships, so explaining those differences and finding space in a crowded market for private support can be challenging.

Q: What do you like to do outside work?
A: I love spending time with my wife and 5-month-old baby boy! I love going on camping trips, beach trips and doing pretty much anything active outside. Any chance to lace my boots back up and play soccer is also high on the list.

Q: What’s your favorite thing in your office?
A: No, it’s not my gray and blue lava lamp. But next to that is a series of my favorite student-athlete photos. Each is different, but all embody pure Eagle Pride and remind me why what I do is important for our mission.

Q: Do you have any personal mantras?
A: A few. Control what you can control. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. Never tire of doing what is right. Love one another.