Val Helldobler, you were selected for #TiffinTuesdays for the cool work with the Okotoks Dawgs Baseball Academy in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada. Could you share with us how you came to this position after graduating from Tiffin University?
– The year after I graduated from Tiffin I took a coaching job at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan. After our season ended I was offered a summer job in Okotoks, Alberta to coach the Okotoks Dawgs collegiate team that plays up here in the Western Major Baseball league. Within the first month of coaching for the Dawgs I was offered a full time job with the Dawgs Academy by the owner (John Ircandia). It was ultimately a former teammate and Tiffin University graduate (Jordan Chiero) who help get me the job up in Okotoks. #TiffinNetworking
Could you tell us about your role with the Dawgs?
– I am the infield coordinator for the Dawgs Academy. I coach on the top team in the Academy at the 18U level (Midget Black). I run an ACT prep class for the players to try and help them become NCAA eligible. I also am heavily involved in the outsourcing process with trying to get our kids an opportunity to play baseball in college down in the U.S.
This past week you spent a good bit of time in Ohio, could you share the purpose of your trip?
– The purpose of this trip was to try and find the best competition, with getting the most exposure for our players that we could. We started the trip out by playing in the Buckeye Elite tournament in Columbus… which we won #dawgswin. This was a very big trip for us and was something that we had been planning since February.
What has it been like to be back at Tiffin University?
– It was a big deal for me. This was the first time I had been back since I graduated. I take a lot of pride in the time I spent in Tiffin. I take a lot of pride in playing for Coach Allen and for Coach Wilkins. I take a lot of pride in the degree I earned from Tiffin University. Tiffin University is a special place, and most certainly holds a special place in my heart.
What are the differences from being on campus as a coach compared to a student athlete?
– Looking back now as a student athlete I probably took the beauty of the campus for granted unfortunately. Coming back now as a coach one of the first things I noticed was how new the buildings looked, how clean all of the landscaping was. The people around TU put a serious effort into maintaining it, it is way more evident now seeing that then when I was playing at Tiffin. It makes me have even more pride for Tiffin, seeing it from this side.
The organization that you coach for develops youth Baseball players, what percentage of your athletes will play baseball in college?
– Every single one of our graduating seniors has an option to play college baseball. This is something that the Dawgs coaching staff puts a lot of time and pride into. We want to give these kids the same opportunity that all of us had.
What differences are there in the baseball industry in Canada compared to the United States?
– I would say the biggest difference is the number of players. There are not nearly as many people in Canada, so obviously the baseball numbers would be down comparatively. Also there is not high school baseball in most places in Canada. So for most of these kids the biggest/best option would be to go to an Academy, just like what we have.
How did your academics at Tiffin University prepare you for your current work?
– It’s funny because I graduated with a managerial studies degree and do not work in the corporate business world, but I use my degree on a daily basis. I have a lot of administrative duties for the Dawgs. I am in charge of booking our facilities out for local youth baseball, I also run the camps for the Academy. I deal with a lot of people and managing schedules, etc. On the baseball side of things, being the infield coordinator, I have to “manage” the infielders. Making sure they are continuing to get better, making sure they have a routine, and making sure they are continuously learning. Also as a coach or manager all you are dealing with is with people. You have to manage attitudes, personalities, good days/bad days, etc.
How did your time on the baseball team prepare you for your current work?
– It prepared me in the best way possible. Playing for Coach Allen, he taught us how to do things the right way, how to go about our business in a professional manner. It prepared me to show up every day ready to work, with a passion. It showed me the meaning of a team environment. It taught me that everything isn’t always about me. Looking back now I learned way more from the life lessons that Coach Allen and the rest of the staff taught then I ever did from a ground ball or a hitting session. Tiffin University Baseball prepares the players not only for baseball, but what it takes to be a good man, a good father, a good brother. Good people make good players, good players make good teammates, and good teammates make great teams.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to student athletes at Tiffin University?
– I know its cliché, but don’t take your time for granted and make the most of your opportunities. Take pride in the work you put in, in the friends you meet, and in your coaches! It literally flies by and before you know it, its gone. I spent 5 years at Tiffin and there’s not a day that goes by that I wouldn’t love to go back. #TUPride