While most of us were climbing the ladder to success from one job to another, an elevator whizzed by and stopped near the top. From this elevator emerged Christopher Spartz, former St. Ambrose basketball player and graduate assistant.
Spartz unlike most coaches skipped a few rungs on the ladder and went from St. Ambrose graduate assistant coach all the way to recruiting and operations coordinator for the Ohio State men’s basketball program.
Spartz has always loved the game of basketball. He played four years at St. Ambrose and was a member of an SAU team that reached the NAIA Division II Final Four. While at SAU, the Bees won two conference championships, won one conference tournament title, and made two NAIA National Tournament appearances. Upon graduation from Ambrose, Spartz was not ready to give up the game he loved, so he took a job playing for the Washington Generals. With the Generals he got to meet many celebrities as well as play against the famous Harlem Globetrotters. After his tenure was up with the Generals, Spartz made his way back to his alma mater to attend the organizational leadership graduate school and be on coach Ray Shovlain’s staff.
“Simply put, it makes me happy,” Spartz said about why he coaches. “The opportunity to lead, mentor and impact young men’s lives through coaching college basketball makes all the sense in the world to me.”
Spartz is not just a basketball coach but also a life coach. This is one page he took out of Coach Ray’s book while playing for him and coaching under him. He learned many valuable things about the game of basketball but maybe the most important thing he learned is that it is just a game.
“Ray taught me the fundamentals on how to treat people,” Spartz explained. “He taught me how important it is to remain humble and share your successes with others. He taught me how to be open and willing to learn new ways of doing things. These all speak volumes to his longevity, his legacy and the relationships he has with players former and current, staff and the Quad-City community. Coach Ray is one of the most selfless men I’ve ever met in my life.”
St. Ambrose also left its footprint on Spartz. It helped cultivate a sense of purpose, a thirst for learning and the confidence Spartz needed to address new challenges. He translates these lessons from St. Ambrose and Coach Ray into his own coaching philosophy. It’s not X’s and O’s with his philosophy but rather trying to put his athletes into the best situation to win on and off the court, which sounds kind of like the NCAA commercial that states most of us will go pro in something other than sports. Spartz really takes that to heart and makes sure his players excel on the court and in life.
Spartz, who started at Ohio State only a few weeks ago, is already noticing the differences of working there. All you have to do is check his twitter for yourself. Just last week he tweeted about Greg Oden coming to work out and Lebron James coming to see the new athletic facility, of which there are pictures on twitter.
Of course Spartz no longer works for Coach Ray, but he does work for another coaching titan, Thad Matta. Spartz met Matta at the Ohio State summer camp in June. The last coach Matta hired from his summer camp was Brad Stevens, who is now the head coach for the Boston Celtics Needless to say, Spartz is in good company.
“Coach Matta has a gift of seeing the bigger picture, Spartz said. “A unique and winning vision and an unmatched ability to inspire and motivate. His feel for players and moments is unparalleled.”
Spartz gave some willing advice for current St. Ambrose students that helped carry him to where he is today. He explained that he didn’t get where he is today by giving up his dreams of impacting lives.
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” Spartz said. “Along your journey, always remember, when things do not go according to plan, its all about how quickly and positively you respond.”
How long Spartz remains at Ohio State remains to be seen, but no matter where he is, he will always be impacting lives and following his dreams. As far as his five to ten year plan goes, let’s just say it involves coaching and above all else teaching life lessons on and off the court.
“Extremely happy inspiring, mentoring and leading young men,” is what the future holds, Spartz said.