Over the course of the next several months, members of the Board of Directors’ Communications Committee will be contributing original columns, where they share updates on various Board of Directors and Deacon Club happenings. Be sure to read this special section each month to stay in the know with all of the latest news.
Our family love affair with Wake Forest Athletics began on the old campus, where my father, Dr. Robert Team, used to cheer on the Deacons in the original Groves Stadium. After completing his studies at Bowman Gray School of Medicine, he returned to Lexington, NC to practice. With the University’s move to Winston-Salem in 1956, sporting events were closer than ever.
I grew up watching the football team compete at Bowman Gray Stadium, and even have the splinters to prove it! Games were much more casual then, and I remember running up and down the track with friends as we followed the players on the field. Those were the days when an adventurous kid could get the best spot in the stadium. I mourned the day when they tore down the old Memorial Coliseum. Not only was it the arena of many classic Wake Forest victories, it also had the undisputed best hot dogs in America.
While the advent of the “new” Groves Stadium and the LJVM brought reserved seating, the same anticipation of kick-off and tip-off was still very present. If there was a game scheduled, we were there (I think my dad scheduled patients around Wake sporting events). As one of five children, we never had to worry about unused tickets, and game day was always a source of motivation to complete my homework in time for the short drive to Winston-Salem.
When the time came for me to decide on a college, there was only one choice. I already felt like I was part of the University community, and moving into Davis dorm was just an extension of my love for all things Wake Forest. My first day on campus, I wandered over to the gym unannounced and looked up the swim coach, Leo Ellison, and asked him if I could try-out for the team as a diver. After a few questions, he told me to go get my gear and meet him at the pool later that afternoon. Things were certainly a lot more casual back in the ’70s, at least in non-revenue sports. After a short workout, he told me I was officially a member of the team, and just like that, I became a Deacon athlete.
Swimming and diving under Coach Ellison’s leadership was a transformative experience for me. Not only did he make me a better athlete, he made me a better person. He was a great influence and mentor to each member of the team, all of whom are better people for their time spent with him. I remember one day he asked me to add another dive to my competitive list, one that was way outside of my comfort zone. I didn’t think twice, as I would have walked through a brick wall before disappointing Coach Ellison. It is heartening for me to see the same excellence in coaching at Wake Forest today. I am sure that our current student-athletes benefit from the same mentoring that I was lucky enough to receive, and that our coaches are making a lasting impact on the lives of our young people, not only in sports, but also in their lives.
Today, Wake Forest sports are generational events for the Team family. My son, Coleman (’09), continued the family legacy at Wake Forest and is always present on game day along with his older brother, Alston. Much to the excitement of my wife, Katherine, and I, we also have four grandchildren who already love attending Wake Forest athletic events. Our oldest grandchild, Alston, had the opportunity to help Open the Gate at last fall’s football game versus Clemson, all while giving the team as many high-fives as possible. Additionally, it’s a tradition for our granddaughter, Milly, to use my lap as her own personal cheerleading platform throughout the duration of each game. I cherish these moments spent with our family, all of which create special Wake Forest memories.
Aside from attending games with my family, my connection with Wake runs very deep and I enjoy being involved as an alumnus. I currently have the privilege of serving on the Deacon Club Board of Directors. It is exciting to be a member of this group and serve on the Communications Committee, especially during this transformative time of new facilities. I look forward to a bright future, sharing in the victories of our student-athletes, both on and off the field.