If the rallying cry chanted by Hollins sports fans has a new energy and force, there’s a good reason: the university’s teams are building—and then building on—a record of success. Athletic Director David Zinn is moving the program forward without losing sight of the student-athlete ideal.
When Hollins basketball standout Jasmine Greene ’13 is asked to name the player she most admires, Chauncey Billups of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers is not the name you’d expect her to say in an era dominated by superstars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade. But after taking a closer look at Billups’ career, you quickly understand why Greene, a Hollins guard who has earned All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) honors two seasons in a row, looks up to him. About the five-time All-Star, Tom Friend of ESPN The Magazine observes, “In a league obsessed with LeBron, Kobe and D-Wade, Chauncey might actually be the one to emulate.”
The same strong work ethic and resilience shown by Billups are apparent in Greene and also throughout the Hollins athletic program, where the string of recent successes is generating a lot of buzz. The 2011-12 academic year saw the volleyball team qualify for the ODAC tournament for just the second time in school history. The golf team completed its fall season ranked twenty-seventh in the nation, and the swim team earned its first winning record since 1999. Hollins riders continued to build upon their longstanding reputation for excellence, winning two Intercollegiate Horse Show Association competitions this year, finishing as reserve high point team in ODAC competition, and enjoying a score of individual victories. And the Hollins basketball team won ten games for the first time since the 2002-03 season, more wins than in the previous seven seasons combined.
“We’ve got a great staff that has done fantastic work over the last couple of years on the recruiting trail and in teaching our players,” says Athletic Director David Zinn, who came to Hollins last July after serving as director of athletics at Chatham University and head women’s basketball coach at Meredith College. “[Former Hollins Athletic Director] Aubrey Shinofield did a great job of getting the momentum going and we’re just trying to keep that snowball moving.”
Zinn is understandably excited about what Hollins’ athletic teams have accomplished lately, but he emphasizes his highest responsibility as athletic director is developing true student-athletes. “There’s no reason our students can’t find success in the classroom and at the same time have the opportunity to play high-quality athletics. That’s my goal here, to have the best of both worlds.”
Swimmer Maggie Dwyer ’14, who is double majoring in English and theatre, says she appreciates the consideration coaches and professors alike have embraced to help her achieve in both arenas. “Our coach [Jonathan Raines] is very supportive,” she says. “If there’s ever a time we feel overwhelmed, he’ll figure out a way to help us balance practice and homework. For him, academics is the first priority.
“At the same time, professors are very understanding about us doing other things. As long as you give them enough notice, they’ll tell you what you need to do and when to have it in. I was looking to attend a small college where the professors actually knew who I was, and I’ve found that here.” Dwyer has thrived at Hollins, becoming team captain her first year and setting ten school swimming records as a sophomore, while pursuing her goal of going on to graduate school and ultimately becoming a high school English teacher and swim coach.
Golf team member and history major J.R. Woolwine ’12 adds that faculty members hold athletes to the same high academic standards as other students. “You have teachers who are really going to think about your capability and push you to it. In the history department they do that in every single class. They will not hesitate to say to you, ‘You can do better than that.’”
Greene, who is majoring in business with a communication studies minor, believes the sense of community in the athletic department and on the campus in general is one of the best things about being an athlete at Hollins. Despite the demands of basketball and academic work, she has still found time this year to serve as president of the Black Student Alliance, as a member of the Hollins Activity Board and the university’s Spirit Squad, and as an Early Transition Program mentor. “I have friends who play Division I basketball [Hollins competes in Division III], and their only friends are people on the team or a couple of people in their classes. Here, I have friends who are on the team, friends who are on other teams, friends I am in clubs with.” Woolwine agrees. “It’s just nice. You feel like you’re a family, you’re part of something.”
As the teams continue to improve, Zinn says he hopes to see alumnae get more involved with the athletic community. The program in fact has begun communicating with local alumnae chapters when Hollins is competing in their area. “I’ve never seen a school where the alumnae are so loyal to their institution, so we want to encourage them to be a part of us, whether it’s coming to a game or supporting the Athletic Hall of Fame at reunion each year,” he says. “And we want to put a product out there our alumnae are going to be proud of. We’re celebrating small victories now. And I’m hoping we’ll be celebrating larger victories down the road.”
Photo: The 2011-12 basketball season ended on a high note with a 74-66 win over the Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets. Hollins just missing qualifying for the ODAC tournament. Jasmine Greene ’13 had a huge night, with thirty-two points and seven assists.
Photo credit: Albana Moreyra ’14