Practice diligence in the classroom. Be patient. Work hard. Be a good teammate.
According to Wes McCurtis, these are the principles that any student-athlete should implement in order to ensure their own fundamental success. Whether at the two-year level that McCurtis—Cypress College’s new Athletic Director—oversees or even at a four-year university; the sentiments remain the same.
McCurtis, promoted to his current post in August, preaches from experience. Any experience is useful, of course, but it’s this experience that helps him better connect with the athletes he serves.
“Being a former student-athlete helps a lot,” McCurtis said, sitting upright and attentively behind his desk in an office whose walls were mostly bare. “Understanding what resources are out there for athletes, how things should be set up, what support programs should be in place for our athletes and what the standard is. I think coming from that world of being in athletics and not being too far removed from it kind of gives me a leg up in being able to understand what our student-athletes are going through.”
The transition into his new role as one of the primary voices behind the Chargers’ operations in the athletic department is still very much ongoing, as made apparent by the simplistic office—for now—McCurtis claims as his own.
Long before McCurtis left Long Beach State University with a master’s degree in Sports Management, he was a high school basketball player—and a particularly good one at that—faced with the cruel reality check of venturing to college and understanding that it’s an entirely different game.
Prior to McCurtis being in a position to help place Cypress’ athletic program among the elite, he was just a kid from Lancaster, California, staring into the face of adversity instead of a computer screen.
Raised by a hard-working single mother who helped keep him in line—both academically and in sports—in a locale that isn’t exactly the friendliest, McCurtis’ early upbringing helped him become the first college graduate in his family.
“There’s a lot of different stories, a lot of different expectations that our student-athletes have depending on where they come from,” McCurtis said. “They struggle with a lot of things, whether it’s getting to school, having a place to live—there are so many things that our athletes go through. Just helping them kind of overcome those struggles is really what keeps me going; what inspires me to do what I do.”
If it isn’t the living situation or the clothes on their backs that young athletes have to worry about, it’s simply making an impression on a coaching staff who have already stockpiled their roster with some of the top recruits in the area. That was something that McCurtis experienced at the collegiate level, despite his high school accolades.
“People come here to be competitive” explains McCurtis, “have fun and have a good experience, but they also come here because they want to win games and move on to a four-year school. Because their dream is to either play at a four-year school and get their degree or play professional sports. We’ve had people come through here and do both of those things.”
Whether it’s soccer, baseball, basketball—the Chargers have a new voice leading the way. A voice who sports a plethora of new ideas that can take the school’s athletic program to new heights. A voice that can empathize with the trials and tribulations young athletes on campus face on a daily basis; McCurtis has ‘been there, done that.’ Now, it’s a matter of setting these ideas—ones that McCurtis has allegedly been sitting on well before his promotion—into motion.
He may not be an underdog anymore, but McCurtis still approaches each daunting task with that same mentality.
“I kinda carry that with me as an athlete. I carry that with me to college and I carry that with me now in my professional life. I always have that in the back of my head. I’m not trying to prove people wrong. I’m not fueled by rage or anything like that. I just always try to stay humble, because I know where I came from. I know what I’ve been able to accomplish to this point and I know what’s in front of me. I know the effect that I can continue to have on our department with all of our student-athletes and all of our coaches and all of the people who come through here. I know a lot of our students come from places or have some of those same struggles I had growing up or currently. I just want them to know that I emphasize with them; I understand them.”