Posted by Aurora University on March 13, 2013
“Coach Berkman is demanding. He’s won championships, he knows what to do when times are rough, and he knows how to motivate,” said junior long stick midfielder Spencer Fuqua. “But he’s also understanding. He’s created a team that feels like a family, and he makes sure that school always comes first.”
It takes a great deal of vision and a leap of faith to envision a winning program out of nothing, but that’s precisely what Berkman did. He joined the athletics staff in 2010 as a graduate assistant, before AU men’s lacrosse had even begun conference play.
Berkman rose to the position of head coach after just one year, and became the assistant athletic director the following year. He’s recruited top players from Arizona, California and Illinois, and he’s helped build AU’s reputation for passionate, committed and winning teams.
“I saw a great opportunity here at AU to be a part of something amazing,” he said. “I did my research and found that Aurora was a university that inspires students to be successful. It supports athletics. It supports its coaches. It supports its students. I wanted to be a part of that experience.”
Now, Berkman has created a team that embraces not only his love of the game, but also his strong values. His freshmen meet with him weekly, not to discuss their athletic performance, but to touch base about their classes, homework, time management and any other issues that are affecting their success. Upperclassmen are required to check in at midterm—and often stop by Berkman’s office much more frequently—to ensure that they are meeting the academic standards that Berkman expects from an AU student-athlete.
Berkman understands, too, that to play well together on the field, his team must also play well together off the field. The team performs volunteer service projects and engages in fun team-building activities that extend well beyond the time allocated for practice. He empowers his veteran players to step up, to mentor the younger students and to provide the support they need.
Perhaps aspiring lacrosse coach and sophomore midfielder Zach Olsen put it best: “In Coach Berkman, I see how a Division III coach should act and carry himself, and I know that I want to rise to that same level.”
The first home game for the Spartan men’s lacrosse team is on Wednesday, March 13, when they host Milwaukee School of Engineering. Game time is set for 4:00 p.m. on Vago Field.