Headshot sourced from the Haverford College Website
College wasn’t a dream for Danielle Lynch. She was often told that track would be her ticket to get there, but didn’t know how college, and college athletics in particular, could shape lives. Now, after a career of coaching and athletic administration work, she does.
Lynch’s college track career in the 400-meter hurdles was a rocky one, stifled by injury and isolating team culture but ultimately successful, with a trip to the national championship while at Rutgers. After college,, she was hired as an assistant track coach, where she “caught the coaching bug.” She found the personal side of coaching to be rewarding, spending ten years at West Point and Bucknell.
Eventually, though, she took on a dual role at Bucknell, providing for her student-athletes in administrative ways – beyond her job description. Ultimately, she switched to administration full-time because it still allowed her to address important issues for student-athletes, but also created a better life balance in terms of time management and emotional investment. “If we had a bad conference meet,” Lynch remarked, “the whole family felt the bad conference meet.”
Lynch tackled her new role with enthusiasm. When she moved to Penn State Harrisburg, she started a track and field program from scratch. “We had no track, and we weren’t allowed to run in the hallways. I mowed a 1000-meter loop for the team to practice on,” she said. “Our discus throwers warmed up in the parking lot.” In a few years, the program was producing all-Americans. Lynch attributes her administrative successes to listening attentively to the needs of all student-athletes and using the interpersonal nature of collegiate athletics structures to resolve conflicts.
The scene that Lynch enters at Haverford is unique. She spoke about her extensive research process before taking the job – Haverford’s culture, its leaders, its handling of the pandemic, her predecessor – and concluded that “the community is healing … the students care about society and about one another.”
She acknowledged that athletics has created division on an institutional and social level on campus, whether through harmful speech or simple miscommunication. One example she gave was of the new outdoor fitness area near the GIAC. She explained that she had no role in constructing it; it was a donor who provided the funds for it. Naturally, people assumed she used athletics funds to build it, leading to claims that she didn’t understand what athletes really wanted.
Some of Lynch’s initiatives in her first months at Haverford include events like Athletics Pride Week and dialogue with the campus’ other departments. She is formulating an Athletics Action Plan in line with the college-wide Strategic Plan, which will include new facilities, more trainers, and other improvements for student-athletes. These changes are part of her effort to make college athletics more accessible to students and “an example of wellness for the entire Haverford community.”