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Onward and Upward, but Still Giving Back

Tom Serratore’s dedication to helping others continues after college

Tom Serratore is seeing how the other side lives.

After years of playing soccer, including at the college level at Valparaiso University, Serratore is now a volunteer coach for the University of Oregon’s women’s soccer team, where he tutors the goalkeepers.

Serratore was featured on the cover of NCAA Champion magazine in summer 2013, when the magazine published a story about his work with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money and awareness for childhood cancer research.

Now that he has completed his first season as a coach, Serratore says the experience is teaching him there is more to the coaching profession than just X’s and O’s.

“There are so many little things that I didn’t know went into coaching,” says Serratore, who graduated from Valparaiso in spring 2015 with a degree in secondary education and kinesiology with a minor in nonprofit promotions and communications.

“Now that I’m doing this every day, I almost wish I could go back and tell student-athlete Tom to have a little more understanding when it came to my coaches.”

Serratore admits there were times he would question why certain decisions were made either concerning his own status or that of the team. He wasn’t aware of the process that coaches go through on a regular basis. He’s learned to appreciate all that goes into the decision-making process.

He also now appreciates the amount of film study that goes into preparing the team for upcoming matches and the detailed planning that goes into workouts and practices.

He’s enjoyed working on women’s soccer coach Kat Mertz’s staff so much he has started to set career goals.

“I want to try and be a collegiate head coach somewhere in the next six years by the time I’m 30 years old,” Serratore says. “Is that crazy? It might be, and I may get further into this and see that it isn’t realistic. I have a big dream in mind, but I won’t forget about what I’m doing here on a daily basis.”

Serratore also would like to become a director of athletics.

“I can say that now, but you never know what will happen,” Serratore says. “I could fall in love with coaching and never want to leave the profession. Or, I could have new opportunities that come to me in the future.” 

While he is discovering the ins and outs of his job, his dedication to helping children with cancer through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation never wanes. In his years at Valparaiso, Serratore raised more than $150,000 for the organization.

“For a small private university in the middle of northwest Indiana, that is a big number to achieve,” says Serratore, whose passion for St. Baldrick’s grew from meeting kids who were stricken with cancer. “The community at Valpo was amazing. There was no event for St. Baldrick’s on campus when I got there. But we started one, and it exploded. People expected me to do an event every year. I would get emails to see if we were going to do it again.”

He has plans to continue his work for St. Baldrick’s in his new home of Eugene, Oregon. That means a 10th straight year of shaving his head, which would earn him recognition as a “Knight Commander” by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

“If I was able to rally over 150 people at a school of 3,500, I look at the possibilities that can be done at a school with over 20,000 students,” Serratore says. “There is opportunity to bring even more awareness.”

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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