Aug 19, 2013, 11:54 PM EDT
There are many student-athletes that graduate from the University of Notre Dame and enter careers outside of sports after they hang up their uniform for the final time. However, you may not know that some find their way back to Notre Dame to help mold the next-generation of student-athlete in a variety of non-coaching positions. Over the next five days we will present five Notre Dame graduates who have returned to their alma mater to work in a collection of different departments.
August 19 • Kevin Deeth ’10 (Hockey)
August 20 • George West ’09 (Football)
August 21 • Sara Liebscher ’91, MBA ’93 (Basketball)
August 22 • Steve Sollmann ’04 (Baseball)
August 23 • Mike McNeill ’88 (Hockey)
Three years ago Kevin Deeth was listening to Brian Williams give the commencement address at the 2010 University of Notre Dame graduation exercises and this year he continues his career as assistant programming and instruction manager at the Compton Family Ice Arena on the south-side of campus.
In his current role at the Compton, Deeth works with developing the local youth hockey teams (IYHL), organizing incoming tournaments, running hockey clinics and doing private lessons for the Compton Family Ice Arena. He is also in charge of the new curling program at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
After a few years moving about minor-league hockey in the U.S., Deeth tried his luck overseas, playing a year abroad before retiring from the game he had played for about two decades.
“My time playing hockey overseas was invaluable to me,” said Deeth. “I got the opportunity to see so many places that I normally wouldn’t have had the opportunity to visit. It humbled me a little bit and put things in perspective for me. Unlike many people in the U.S., the people I met overseas appreciate family, friendship and food above all else.”
A three-time monogram winner for the Irish, Deeth served as one of the team’s alternate captains during his senior season and was a four-year regular at center. In the classroom, Deeth compiled over a 3.5 grade-point average with a degree in Marketing from the top-ranked Mendoza College of Business.
Throughout his Irish hockey career, Deeth was tagged as a hard-skating center who had speed to skate with anyone. The program-leader for games played at the time of his graduation (164), Deeth closed his Irish career ranked 35th on the all-time points list with 35 goals and 79 assists for 114 career points. Additionally, he was selected to the 2007 CCHA all-rookie team after a notching a career-best 17 goals with 22 assists for 39 points. He finished his career with 14 power-play goals, three short-handed tallies and three game winners.
While playing under Coach Jackson, Deeth never specifically believed he would be back at Notre Dame to work, yet along in three short years.
“When I was at Notre Dame all I could think about was doing my best in the classroom and playing hockey,” Deeth stated. “I always figured that my professional hockey career would have lasted longer, but you obviously can’t predict injuries. The injury that I incurred was a blessing in disguise for me because I am now ahead of the curve of others who played hockey because I have already started a fruitful career in a job I am really comfortable with and in a place I love.”
Re-entering an every day life outside of athletics can be hard for many professional athletes. The long days in the gym, the grueling study sessions in team rooms and the long bus rides that accompany road trips make the journey of an athlete not always the most glorious. But how was Deeth able to successfully transition from life in professional hockey to Notre Dame so seamlessly?
“The move I made going from professional hockey to working at the Compton (Family Ice Arena) was a no-brainer for me,” stated Deeth. “Being in a place that I was really comfortable with and a place that I loved made it very easy. Being able to stay around hockey in a mentoring and programming role really sealed the deal when this opportunity to work with Mike (McNeill) came up. It doesn’t hurt that my wife was from here and worked in the area.”
Deeth never really saw himself as someone who strived to be a hockey coach at the collegiate or even prep level, but he didn’t want to let the skills that he had worked tirelessly on go to waste. Luckily, in cooperation with director of programming and instruction at the Compton Family Ice Arena, Mike McNeill (’88), Deeth is able to lace-up the skates most days and coach area youths for a few hours.
“I still love getting on the ice,” Deeth remarked. “I am able to get on the ice for about three-hours a day to work with kids on technique, skating and teamwork. Helping our students grow their skills is a big part of the reason why I love my job. Getting the opportunity to influence the growth of kids to become better hockey players, but more importantly better people is something I am thankful for.”
The sheet of ice in which Deeth currently teaches the next generation of Notre Dame hockey players is much different than he skated on himself during his time at Notre Dame. By graduating in 2010, Deeth never played a game at the Compton Family Ice Arena. Instead, he, along with his boss Mike McNeill, were cornerstones in the program that enabled the University to embark on an endeavor such as Compton.
“I’m glad that people understand what a nice place the Compton is,” said Deeth. “I have the advantage with knowing what playing at the Joyce Center was like, so the difference is easy for me to see.
The Notre Dame hockey team went from the Joyce Center, a building that shared space with numerous varsity sports, to the Compton, a 5,022-seat, stand-alone single-sport venue. Deeth, along with the local hockey fans and Notre Dame alums alike, will always remember the Joyce and what it brought to the community.
“Soon the student-athletes on the hockey team that played in the Joyce will be gone,” Deeth articulated. “But Coach (Jeff) Jackson will not allow the team to forget who paved the way for them to skate in this place (Compton). I believe in their team room they have a big picture of the Joyce Center that says, ‘remember your roots.’ Coach Jackson does a really good job of letting the current team know that these amazing facilities haven’t always been here. The current players who don’t know the older classes realize that the older classes were a part of the fabric that built this place and I think they are grateful. You can see how grateful they are by the amount of community service they go and do with us on the ice. They are great and very respectful. That is just the type of kid that Coach Jackson recruits to come play here at Notre Dame.”
Albeit he will never have the chance to suit up for the Irish again, Deeth is happy to be able to be around the team he once captained on the ice. Now his time is spent molding the talent of tomorrow and opening up the Compton to the community. Just because his NCAA eligibility has run out, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t think about the possibilities.
“It would have been fun to be able to play at the Compton, but am grateful for the opportunity I had to play in front of the great fans we have at Notre Dame. It is something I will cherish forever.”
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