By: Brandon Behlke
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Mike Kline has been the cross country coach at Green Bay since 1987, beginning as a student-athlete for the Phoenix. The Luxemburg, Wis., native also served as the girls distance and triple jump coach at Green Bay Southwest High School from 1988-93. Kline graduated from Green Bay in 1987 with degrees in psychology and philosophy.
In 1999, Kline was named academic coordinator for the athletics department. In this role, Kline conducts frequent grade checks and schedules study groups for all of Green Bay's student-athletes.
Kline has been instrumental in the academic success of Green Bay's student-athletes, highlighted by the department's current streak of 23 consecutive semesters with a combined grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
Kline's 2006 men's and women's teams were both honored by their respective coaches associations for their efforts in the classroom, as both teams posted combined GPAs over 3.30.
GreenBayPhoenix.com recently caught up with Coach Kline, even finding out about what a typical day for the always on-the-go Kline.
What is the most challenging part of
your job as academic coordinator?
What you want to try to do is try to get the student-athletes the best help and get it to them as quickly as possible. You always hope that they are proactive. I would rather have them come talk to me before their grades get low and sometimes they think they can dig themselves out of a hole. My job is to help them dig themselves out of that hole.
How do you balance your time between
both of your positions?
I am pretty thankful, every night when I kneel down I say my prayers I thank God that he doesn't require a lot of sleep. My alarm usually goes off at 4:26 every morning (26 representing the number of miles in a marathon) and I get home at 10:00 each night, eat dinner and take care of things, I treat both very important. Coaching Cross Country is my passion, but Academics Coordinating is my top priority. It is a top priority, because as student athletes their academics are a top priority. My team knows what I love to do.
Why did you want to be academic
I feel that in the past they did a good job, but I think 18-22 year olds need more supervision. If you don't supervise them they will screw around at study tables. What I did is that everything I have done with my cross country team, I have tried to get the other 14 teams to do the same. I don't trust them when they are studying on their own.
is the biggest difference between your role as cross country coach and your
role as academics coordinator?
There is probably not a whole lot of difference between the positions. I am both a coach and a coordinator in each position. I use my coaching voice at the cross country voice, I use constructive criticism and they know that they will become better runners and try to correct what they are not doing well. In study table you hear that same voice. It is not always positive. The other 14 teams, especially the freshman, probably get the wrong idea of who I am, I am really not that bad of a guy and I am not always that negative. When you come to study table, though, the table has to be quiet. If it is not quiet I will ask for quiet very politely and say please, but if it's not quiet I will use my coaching voice and then it gets to a low tone and I am not afraid to use my look, and they know that they need to be quiet otherwise they need to get out of the room.
During the cross country season what is
a typical day like for you?
4:26- Alarm goes off, but usually I get up before my alarm.
Before 5:00- I am normally at the Kress Center and in my office.
5:45-6:00- My team practice begins. For example, this morning we met and then we did strength and conditioning with our strength and conditioning coach. Then after that we practice.
After Practice- I will have student athletes come in and talk about scheduling classes, looking at academic plans, questions about general education, or majors and minors, and usually we send them over to the academic advisors, but if they have a question that I can answer I try to do it the best that I can. For example, I have two athletes coming in this morning to meet with me.
After Meetings- My runners will come in and say that they have a lab or an extra credit assignment and that they won't make it to study table. Other coaches might come in and ask if I have received any grade checks, this week grade checks go out, so everybody is waiting to see what their student-athletes are doing in the classroom
2:00 or 2:30- Practice on Wednesdays.
Later Afternoon- Meetings with coaches and players will continue.
6:15- I arrive for the study table.
6:30-9:00- Study table, but sometimes students will want to stay longer; sometimes I stay until 9:30.
9:30-Back in my office.
10:00- Arrive home and watch Seinfeld re-runs. I will be honest I have two pet cats and home and when I don't have my children, I have a son and a daughter, Tigger and Willow know that I come home and I make dinner and I feed them. Then I do my exercises, say my prayers and go to bed, and then it starts all over again.
How do you juggle your responsibilities
here and your son and daughter's game schedule?
This past fall, my son was in soccer and my daughter was in cross country, so I try to go to their games as much as I can, but if one of their games are late and I got study table, sometimes I won't go, but sometimes I went and I came in late. We have people here who will fill-in, but I am sort of fussy about study table. I like to be there, I want them to play by my rules. My son and daughter know that my cross country team is a part of our family. My cross country team knows that my son and daughter are a part of our cross country team. That way, the team gets to meet my son and daughter, and my son and daughter get a chance to meet the team. When I go away on trips, I let my son and daughter that I will be travelling with the team, but that this is my job. They are respectful of that and they know what my job entails and I am open and honest with them. My team knows that my family is important to me, and if my son or daughter are able to come and travel with the team they can see what I do, so they don't think I'm off riding in a fancy motor coach, eating in fancy restaurant, and sleeping in nice hotels. That's not the way it is. Sometimes I need to apologize to my son and daughter because they might feel that they are getting the short end of the stick. Other times I have to apologize to my cross country team because they might feel the same way.
How many consecutive semesters have the
athletics teams had a 3.0 and over GPA?
We have had 3.0 and higher GPAs for our athletics department for 23 consecutive semesters. I will be in about 6 weeks, 4 days, and a few hours and minutes we are hoping it will be 24 straight. That's something I am proud of, but I am not satisfied. I believe that streak can go on, but if the student athletes put in the same effort they do in the sport as they would into academics, that streak can go on. We get quality student-athletes here and those that might have academic challenges, we have the resources and the help that can help them achieve a high level.