The Thunder is causing a local athletic storm

Last year Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College opened up the gates with a clap of "Thunder" (the school's athletic team name) for local athletes.

Last year Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College opened up the gates with a clap of "Thunder" (the school's athletic team name) for local athletes.

The school started two collegiate teams, football and softball. Soon it will have five (the school is adding men's and women's basketball and a volleyball team).

The football and fast-pitch softball rosters are filled with local athletes of all different ages -- last year's football team had a 37-year-old on it.

"We wanted to give students opportunities that the other community colleges in the area currently have," said Larry Anderson, current athletic director and vice president of administration and student affairs at the school. "We also believe that there are a lot of good things that come with athletics."

Beginning July 1, Anita Hanson will be the athletic director for football, volleyball and softball. Jen MacKay will be the director for men's and women's basketball (she is also the women's basketball coach). Anderson will take over the role of interim president of the school.


"Our main focus ... is that we want our students to be students first and athletes second, that's really a key to what were trying to build over here," Anderson said.

The school also has a mantra of recruiting locally.

"We're really making an effort to recruit locally," Anderson said. "That doesn't mean we wouldn't have kids coming in from different parts of the country, but we really believe that if we have our local kids ... that we will get people to come out and watch our games."

Kerry Rodd, the head softball coach, feels the same way.

"The first thing it does is it offers young ladies in this area another opportunity to play," he said. "So many of them get either overlooked or there just isn't enough room for them to play on the rosters (of other local colleges). Maybe they're not good enough to play at a Division II level right away, or at a Division III level in a four-year college."

Rodd also said some of the players may need to strengthen their academics to possibly play at another level.

Head football coach Tony DeLeon has a similar mission in mind.

"When Larry Anderson and I first thought about creating this football team ... our main goal and mission (was) to offer our local student athletes another option," he said. "To stay close to home, get a great education and (an experience in collegiate athletics)."


Fond du Lac does not offer athletic scholarships, however.

"From a University of Minnesota Duluth standpoint, because they are Division II, they're able to offer some scholarship money; we can't," Rodd said.

The University of Wisconsin-Superior and the College of St. Scholastica also do not offer athletic scholarships because they are Division III (Fond du Lac is a Division III community college).

"We're kind of in a situation like UWS and Scholastica in that we have to find players that play for the love of the game; the difference with them is they're four-year colleges (and we're a two-year college)," Rodd said. "But one of the great advantages for us ... is the fact that we can ask someone to come and play for us for two years, develop their skills a little bit more, maybe get a little bit more work done in the classroom -- maybe they struggled a little bit in the classroom. We're able to work with them and get them ready for a four-year school, and then they would still have two years available to play at a four-year institution."

Career paths and being out of school for a while are another reason.

"We have student athletes, that maybe due to their academic or skill level, perhaps couldn't play on the D-II level," DeLeon said. "That's why they've chosen the community college route. We also have student-athletes that are looking for two-year programs such as law enforcement. ... Military student athletes -- that joined the military out of high school and now they're done with their couple years, or whatever they signed up for -- now they're looking to get back into law enforcement or some other kind of program and to stay physically in shape; (they) come out for the team."

Even though some may scoff at community college athletics, two players on the softball team last year should change those minds.

Stacie Miller led the nation in batting average this year for the Thunder at the Division III community college level. Leanne Gittings, who also played on the team, was the No. 5 hitter in the country, Rodd said.


Play on the football team

Aug. 8 is the player check-in date for the football. If you are interested in playing football for the team, as well as attending the school, call head football coach Tony DeLeon at 879-0792. Direct e-mails to . DeLeon is currently looking for players.

"If anyone has a desire, or a regret of not coming out and trying (come try out for the team)," DeLeon said. "We've had 37-year-olds, 25-year-olds, 26-year-olds, 22-years-old. It's a great place to come out and go for it."

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