Alma Mater Coaches Making It Matter
Peyton Clark is a senior in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism who will graduate in the spring of 2021. Originally from Charlottesville, Virginia and moved to Arizona in July of 2016! She has interned at AZ Big Media and Big Times Media Group in her Sun Devil undergraduate career.
Sun Devil Athletics is the home to many coaches and staff members, but for three, being a Sun Devil has been more than just their elaborate coaching careers. Sun Devil Wrestling head coach Zeke Jones, Sun Devil Hockey head coach Greg Powers and Sun Devil Women's Golf head coach Missy Farr-Kaye began their Sun Devil experiences as undergraduates at Arizona State University over twenty years ago. Now they reflect on how their own collegiate experiences built who they are as coaches today.
Zeke Jones began his wrestling coaching career at Arizona State University in April 2014 and is currently the seventh coach of ASU wrestling history.
After attending ASU as a student-athlete from 1985 to 1990, Jones' love and passion for the sport grew deeper and deeper.
"My experience at ASU was life-changing in that I had to come full circle and come back," Coach Jones stated.
Discovering his love for wrestling at just five years old, being a family sport that first began with his older brother, Coach Jones wanted to chase his dreams and his passion, which led him to ASU as a student-athlete.
"It was my dream and ASU gave me the platform to be happy and successful in my craft and passion," Coach Jones said.
Coach Bobby Douglas was the head coach at ASU during Jones' enrollment, which was another reason Jones chose ASU as his launching pad. His coach at the time of his enrollment at ASU, was close friends with Jones' high school wrestling coach/teacher. Seeing the relationship between the two, gave him even more confidence in attending ASU academically, but also to help achieve his Olympic dream. At the time the program was a top-five team in the nation. It gave Jones the opportunity and platform to chase his passion and dream.
At 11 years old, he knew he wanted to be an Olympic champion. With his eyes full of hopes and dreams, his family gathered around a TV as he watched the Olympians represent their country and craft. From that point on, the spark was ignited in Jones.
"When I got the opportunity to go to Barcelona, I had achieved my goal and it changed my life," the Olympic medalist said.
52 kg Zeke Jones (USA-blue) v. Carlos Valera (CUB-red), 1993 World Championships
— Guru Wrestling Archives (@TheGuruArchives) July 24, 2020
Earning a silver medal for the United States, Jones was the 1991 World Champion. Then, he proceeded to become a coach for the United States Olympic Team in the 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2012 Olympic Games.
Under Jones' leadership as head coach, his team earned two gold medals and one bronze at the London Games in 2012. At the 2004 Athens Games, where he was the freestyle coach, his athletes earned a gold and two silver medals for Team USA.
"Coaching for the Olympics taught me everything I needed to know, prior to coming back full circle to coach here at ASU," said Coach Jones.
The ultimate question is this: What inspires a former student-athlete to return to coach at their alma mater?
"I am blessed with the opportunities that ASU has given to me as a former student and athlete—I want to give back what was given to me," answered coach Jones.
In 2020, Jones earned his third Pac-12 Coach of the Year title in four years after leading the Sun Devils to its highest conference tournament point total (141.5). This spring he led the program to their 22nd Pac-12 Championship title along with a fourth place finish at the NCAA Tournament, the highest finish for the team since 1995.
— Sun Devil Wrestling (@ASUWrestling) April 9, 2021
Jones has not only led the team to huge success and broken records for the ASU wrestling program, he has also provided wisdom, insight, knowledge and guidance to the young men he coaches and teaches now.
For Coach Jones, the defining marker for success is character. With that, he wants to bring good people into the program and not only help these young men succeed on the mat, but also how to succeed in life and grow into good men. Teaching them core-life values by reminding them that accolades or money, are only the byproduct of what they do. What is most important is to inspire, empower and encourage themselves and others to achieve and reach their goals.
"The biggest lesson from this year was to stop, pause and take a breath-really soak it all in and be grateful that we're able to continue to do what we really love and enjoy," said Coach Jones.
Zeke Jones has worked hard his entire life, perfecting and carving his path and craft into his love and passion for the sport of wrestling. There has been blood, sweat and tears left on the mat for Jones, and countless practices, sleepless nights, but more importantly, endless happiness.
"To be able to pour my life's work into the sport of wrestling here at ASU, to make a difference in other people's lives- I'm just very grateful," said coach Jones.
Coach Greg Powers is in his 13th overall season on the Sun Devil coaching staff and his sixth as head coach of ASU's NCAA Division I Hockey program. He was a finalist for the 2019 Spencer Penrose Award, which is awarded to the Division I Coach of the Year.
Powers graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 1999 and was inducted into the ASU Hockey Player Hall of Fame in 2009. Collegiately, Powers was a three-time ACHA Division I All-American goaltender while playing for the Sun Devils under the tutelage of Hall of Fame Head Coach Gene Hammett.
"My experience as a student-athlete at ASU is something I'll never forget," Greg Powers stated.
The Sun Devils qualified for three national championships during Powers' four-season collegiate career, and he was named Team MVP for the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons.
Cool find from October 5, 1998: Arizona State club hockey practicing at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in downtown Phoenix.
The man in the tracksuit is former head coach & ASU Hockey HOFer Gene Hammett. The goalie? Current head coach Greg Powers (@asucoachpowers).
— Greg Cameron (@gregdcam) March 12, 2021
"It helped me find my path and passion, but it definitely wasn't exactly the path I was expecting," coach Powers .
Powers went into sports broadcasting at ASU, thinking that was where he was going to end up once he graduated. Having been the sports director in high school, he felt his heart and passion belonged in journalism. Knowing that ASU had a wonderful hockey program, having still been a club program at the time, coach Powers knew where his path was headed, or did he?
When he earned his degree in journalism, he turned down a different route and started an executive recruiting firm with a fellow teammate that he had known for several years. Ultimately, his road led him to coaching because he found and discovered his true love and passion for the game, and also for the program at ASU.
"I never thought I'd be a coach," he stated. "I never tried because I just wanted to go into sales after attending Cronkite."
"You work through things though to find your calling and your passion, and it just kind of happened," continued coach Powers.
Coach Powers helped lead Sun Devil Hockey to five consecutive ACHA National Tournament appearances, beginning in 2010 in his first year with the program. In 2012-13, he led ASU club hockey to a new program best record and first ever 30 plus win season with a record of 35-8-1, its first ever Final Four Appearance, first ever National Ranking of No. 1, and a benchmark win over NCAA DI Penn State.
— Sun Devil Hockey (@SunDevilHockey) June 15, 2017
During the 2013-2014 season, ASU Hockey won the ACHA DI National Championship, with Powers crowned ACHA DI National Coach of the Year. The Sun Devils were also named WCHL Conference Champions both for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, and Powers was named WCHL Coach of the Year for 2013-2014, as well as also being named an ACHADivision I National Coach of the Year finalist in 2012-13, and 2014-15.
He has not only made a remarkable difference in the world of sports, but also in the lives of the young men he coaches.
"My experience outside of the game has given me a good perspective and helps me as a coach to help the guys," he stated.
"I think of myself as a CEO more than a coach because being a part of the business world has helped me and allowed me to help the guys with resumes and get jobs," coach Powers said.
Greg Powers' passion for the game, the student-athletes and life shines on and off the ice. It's clear his biggest goal as a coach is that from the day someone gets accepted into ASU as a freshman, all the way through the four years to graduation, preparing them for real-life scenarios, whether that's a career in finance or as a professional hockey player.
"We want to prepare these guys for whatever life has to offer them, and by doing so, we make these boys into men, something I think we do well with," concluded coach Powers.
Sun Devils Women's Golf Head Coach Missy Farr-Kaye began her sixth season this year. The former standout golfer for ASU was named the 10th head coach of the eight-time NCAA Champion Arizona State women's golf team on June 26, 2015.
Being a former Sun Devil herself, she graduated in 1990 with a degree in Organizational Communications. She also participated in the women's golf program as a student-athlete and began her life's journey to perfecting her craft with sunny days on the golf course.
?? Vollstedt (B.A., Education, '69/M. Ed., Mathematics, '71)
?? Farr-Kaye (B.A., Org. Communication, '90) pic.twitter.com/RgCQgoyDLP
— Sun Devil W. Golf (@SunDevilWGolf) September 5, 2020
"We were really successful during my years playing here and we won a national championship on our way out," coach Missy said.
Due to the lack of facility near campus, the team had to practice at a range near Camelback.
"I used to be the only female practicing and hanging out on the golf course, unless my friends came with me."
They didn't quite have the equipment they do now, and they never had their own uniforms. But now, the program and support has grown exponentially since she attended ASU.
"It was a big deal to get a golf bag, and now having contracts with companies like Adidas is huge," Missy stated. "It helps us look and feel great on the golf course."
Now with the sport growing and blooming, especially for women, there are more than 200 division one women's golf teams.
"The sport has come such a long way. It's such a great life's sport and more and more women are feeling more comfortable in it as well," said coach Missy.
Being at the helm of Sun Devil Women's Golf program for more than five seasons, coach Missy has maintained the standard of excellence that the program has become recognized for nationally. She has now led the Sun Devils to 11 Team Championships with 10 Sun Devils capturing individual titles during her tenure. With coach Missy's life experiences and knowledge, she and her coaching staff want to prepare individuals for life after college, both on and off the course, knowing that life is full of challenges, twists and turns, and curveballs.
Coach Missy Farr-Kaye was on the ASU Championship Life Panel at yesterday's All-Student-Athlete/All-Staff meeting.
— Sun Devil W. Golf (@SunDevilWGolf) August 22, 2019
"I try and teach them and remind them: 'Life isn't always fair, it isn't always easy, and we don't have control, but it's not about what takes you down, but how you choose to get back up,'" said coach Missy.
Coach Missy certainly has experienced hardships in her life from losing her sister to cancer, experiencing cancer herself three times and just recently finishing treatment for colon cancer. She has the knowledge to help these young women with their journeys on and off the course.
"It's a part of life, if they're more resilient on the golf course, they'll be more resilient in life," coach Missy stated.
Knowing personally how challenging life can be and the many different, and unexpected curveballs it can throw at you, coach Missy maintains her strength, tenacity and passion for life, the sport and the young women she coaches.
"My doc says I have a unique perspective but I can't imagine being any other way after seeing my sister go through cancer treatment with such grace. I just want to be healthy and do it with a smile on my face," said coach Missy.
Knowing what it's like being a college athlete, and a young woman in the world of golf, she continues to power through and persevere in the best and most admirable ways she knows. Not wanting it to affect the team, or "bring them down," as she stated. Knowing that her girls have been through this journey with her, seeing her fearful and upset, she knows she has a strong army and team of people helping her get through some of her hardest and most challenging days.
"Those girls inspire me too, but they don't even know that they do," said Coach Missy.
Having come full circle, with some roadblocks and major life changes and challenges along the way, coach Missy is able to continue her love and passion for the sport and support the young ladies she coaches and teaches.
"I had a connection with the sport, and I knew I wanted to pursue it, and retirement is nowhere close for me," concludes coach Missy.