Dr. Sue Reinders exits UTPA after more than two years of working, leading and caring.
As the days in the Edinburg area attempt to get colder and students prepare for one more end of semester, Susan Reinders prepares to leave UTPA after being part of this university for more than two years.
At the end of the month she will resign her position as associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator after almost 20 years in the college sports industry and a successful career as a student athlete in the late ‘70s.
“It’s just a time in my career that I want to look for something outside of athletics; I want to do something that’s not 24/7,” said Reinders, who will spend some time in Nevada with one of her close friends before making her next career decision. “I want to be able to go to a game and actually watch the game.”
Reinders arrived in Edinburg to become part of the UTPA athletic department in August 2008. Taking over care of NCAA compliance matters, she has been in charge of making sure coaches, athletes and administrators followed NCAA rules, and addressing violations when necessary.
“My job is a difficult one because I’m usually the bad guy, I’m the one that’s telling the coach no, or I’m telling the coach they had a violation,” she said.
However, in the two and a half years she has been part of UTPA, Reinders has made an effort to go above and beyond the job description, also working to develop a friendly relationship with the student-athletes.
“My job is the student-athletes,” she said. “I think athletes know that if they do have a problem… they can come in and they can talk to me and I can try to help them.”
Reinders mentioned occasions in which athletes have come to her after a good or bad performance in their sport, looking for recognition, advice, or sometimes just a shoulder to lean on. And the people she has worked with had their own anecdotes.
“She put up with everything I’ve been through,” said Jameson Strachan, track and field athlete from the Bahamas. “She has been the one that actually pushed me through everything, she would say, ‘Jameson, even though things are going wrong at this point of time, still hold your head up because you’re going to make it far.’ I will always remember the things she told me.”
It’s no wonder the athletes have listened to Reinders, because “Dr. Sue,” as most athletes know her, has been there and done that.
Reinders’ career started at Carnegie State College, where she played softball and basketball for two years before transferring to the University of Nebraska in Omaha, her hometown. There she obtained her bachelor’s degree in 1980.
As part of the softball team of that institution, Reinders attended the College World Series and finished as a top batter in the ’79 edition.
Then, she became part of the business world and had several jobs with diverse organizations such as the Hastings YMCA and K-Mart Corporation. She later decided to go back to school and pursue a master’s degree with the purpose of coaching at the college level, earning that degree from Emporia State University, where she was a volleyball and softball assistant coach. Reinders completed her doctoral degree at the University of Iowa in 1995.
Right after obtaining the terminal diploma, she became the athletic director of St. Mary’s College, where she spent three years, two as a softball coach. For the following years, Reinders served as athletic director of Minnesota State-Mankato.
Her next job was as assistant athletic director of Northwestern Missouri State before she decided to come down south to experience the new culture and weather that UTPA, a Division I school, offered her.
“I was tired of freezing,” she said. “The opportunity of working at a Division I institution in a warm weather, in a whole different cultural environment, sounded like a very good idea, so I took a chance and signed my contract a moved down here in August of 2008.”
But her job here is not over yet, Reinders takes advantage of her last weeks at the institution to guide Angela Hubbard, volleyball head coach for four years until the end of last week, when the department announced her promotion to the position that Reinders will leave at the end of December.
“It’s going to be tough to lose Reinders,” UTPA Athletic Director Chris King said. “Any time someone leaves it’s hard to replace them, but we’re fortunate to have somebody already here that knows UTPA that knows the athletic department, that is familiar with the student athletes, so it’s going to make the transition a lot easier.”
King mentioned that when he came to the university in October 2009, Reinders was one of his biggest supporters as he went through the transition of becoming the new athletic director.
RELATIONSHIPS ALL AROUND
As Reinders mentioned, serving as compliance director is a hard job to have because she needs to separate caring for the athletes and staff from demanding the right actions from them.
All athletes meet the director of student services at the beginning of each school year; each team has a compliance meeting at which student-athletes agree to follow UTPA rules.
Although Dr. Sue might come across as a strict individual at first, student-athletes soon learn that her job is to protect and not to affect them.
“My first impression of her will always be a lasting impression, she was a standout from the rest, about everyone I’ve met in this institution so far,” Strachan said. “Our relationship was bittersweet, we had a lot of stuff we had been through and we resolved it.”
As the moment to move on approaches Reinders said that it will be hard to leave behind an institution where she has made friends, learned about the culture, and had the opportunity to make a difference.
“It’s very difficult because I’ve made good friends here and good colleagues” she said. “The people that I’ve come across work so well together and it’s a give and take, they help me as much as I help them and it ultimately helps the student athlete, so I feel good about that.”
She added that what she’d miss the most about UTPA will be running into student-athletes every day and keeping up with their performance. Also, she enjoyed getting the opportunity to see the other side of them and letting them see another side of her during trips with the teams.
“I’m very proud of our student athletes,” she said. “I will miss the student athletes… that’s why you get into this business — it’s the student athletes — so I will miss them, hopefully they know that I care about them.”
And they do. Strachan mentioned that Dr. Sue proved she truly cares about their well being, making sure they were on the right path not only athletically and academically, but also ensuring that they knew they had somebody to support them.
“We had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day I always knew she had my back,” he said. “I’m going to miss her.”