Campus Rec Magazine asked Dax Kuykendall, the director of Campus Recreation at the University of Texas-Arlington, six questions:
I knew I wanted a career in sports, but wasn’t totally sure what that meant. Working as an intramural sports student employee at Texas State started me on the path toward my career. The professional staff seemed to love their jobs and the impact they had on students. Some of them are still mentors for me today. Plus, I loved college. This has the bonus of still feeling like I’m there.
UT Arlington is regularly ranked as one of the top five diverse institutions in the U.S., so our program features both traditional and unique components to meet the needs of all of our students. With a large international student population, our students are very interested in soccer, cricket and racquet sports. We try to meet those needs while also meeting the needs of domestic students. There is an incredible mix of cultures and experiences within our facilities. It’s a fun dynamic to observe.
Managing people is the most challenging thing we do, and it only gets tougher as you add more people and personalities to your portfolio. Good problem solvers can work through budgetary crises and facility emergencies, but HR challenges are always very difficult. When I consult with close colleagues over tough HR situations, multiple times in my current role, they always seem to have the clear-cut answer for what to do. However, when you’re the one making the final decision about somebody’s career, finances, etc. it becomes much more real.
My first job after graduate school was at Florida Atlantic University. The director and I were the only full-time employees. Over eight years, I was part of creating a collegiate recreation experience from the ground up. Staff were hired, facilities were built and students loved what we were doing for them. I will never forget how it felt the first day the recreation center was open and the faces of the students as they walked in for the first time. Our work is so impactful and appreciated. I always try and keep that in perspective, especially during the more mundane parts of my job.
We devote a significant amount of money and time to professional development, and learning about trends and best practices on the national level. There is great value in learning from our peers around the country. However, it is important to remember our goal should be to provide the best services possible for our own unique campuses and users. Realize there are equally great development opportunities on your campus that will help you learn about your unique populations and how you can best serve them.
The previous director of campus recreation at UT Arlington was my dad, Doug. He worked here for 40 years — that sounds crazy — and built a great program and team during his career. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to come home and still work in a field that I love. I’m a very lucky guy.