Spartans of UD: Chad Gunnelson

Sep 13, 2017 | Stacey Ortman, director of public information

Spartans of UD is a new feature that will highlight what makes University of Dubuque special – the people who live, work, and study on campus. Chad Gunnelson (C’13) is the director of men’s and women’s track and field and cross country. He also is an adjunct faculty and enrolled in the Master of Business Administration program at UD. This fall, the coach, described by students as eclectic, adaptive, and compassionate, began his seventh year at University of Dubuque.

Chad Gunnelson - Spartans of UD
Director of Track & Field | Cross Country

1. Why did you become a track and field coach?

“The biggest driving factor in all my life decisions is impact. Coaching is the way for me to make the biggest impact in the lives of others and on the community I work and live in. Many of my best mentors are my coaches, and they are now my best friends. Their inspiration led me to this calling, and their leadership helped me to where I am. Coaching helps me pay them back and pay it forward. What I love about track and field is the pureness of the sport. Every event is measured to the nearest centimeter or one-hundredth of a second, and it allows you to know exactly where you stand at all times. That pure honesty and quantifiable nature allows for constant reflection and growth. Well, that’s only if you choose to learn from it.”

2. How are you able to inspire the numerous student-athletes you coach?

“We have 120 student-athletes involved in track and field and cross country, each of them with a different story, purpose, and dream. How am I able to inspire each of them? The most honest answer is, I’m not. This is the biggest reason I come to work each day: to find a way to reach all of them and to inspire all of them. My approach is through loyalty, honesty, and work ethic. These are our program values and a way in which I try and guide the decisions we all make individually and together to foster a better future. I’m loyal to my athletes and to my team. I’m honest with myself and with each of them. I work hard and smart to provide the best experience I can for them. I hope my values and the example I set can inspire them in a way that gives them the strength to make good decisions in the face of adversity right now and in the future.”

3. What do you enjoy most about coaching at the collegiate level?

“These are such formative years! Every step, every rep, and every relationship has a direct impact on a life and an indirect impact on the lives of many others. It’s an exciting time to support and work with young adults, and for sports that I love to be the microcosm and connector certainly makes ‘work’ an extremely special place to be each day.”

4. Do you have a cherished coaching moment or student-athlete success story?

“Many! Winning the IIAC Championship this past season was very special and the culture the team has worked for throughout the process is something I cherish very much. What I cherish most are the relationships and moments I get to share with each individual that makes up this team. The conversations about life or post-graduation before or after practice and team events that don’t get a medal or a trophy, those are the best moments. But we do honor and cherish success. Each and every performance is earned, good or bad. We’ve been blessed with incredible athletes, high performing students, and great people who do their best to perform well in the royal blue! My years as a high school and college coach have provided me with memories that will make me smile for a lifetime. I’m excited to make more of those in the years ahead!”

5. As a coach, do you have a favorite mantra that you share with your student-athletes?

“I have two: Run The Day and More Better! Run The Day is our team motto. It’s the approach that we take to all that we do: be reliable, define success for you and pursue actively with great passion, be immersed in your individual impact, and make good decisions. More Better is something my high school football coach said to us that has always stuck. Track requires a lot of repetition, so when we do something better, we may still need to do it again, and when we do it again … if it improves … that’s More Better. Plus, the illiterate nature of it makes people laugh.”

6. How do you juggle life as a non-traditional student, coach, faculty member, and father?

“Great question. Life is easy when you're motivated! I've found that the best way to juggle or balance it all is to only have one ball in the air at a time. When at work, I love to work. When at home, I’m very careful about taking work home and pretty much turn work off. When doing school, it's time for study. When I teach, I dive into my time with students. Contradictory to that, however, almost everything in my life is right here on campus and pretty much works in harmony. My wife works here and Dash, our youngest son, goes to daycare here, so we root ourselves in the campus community the best we can. There are many parallels with the husband and father I want to be that are supported and even improved by my work serving the Mission here. So in the end it doesn’t matter how many balls or how to juggle, I just find a way!”

7. You and your wife, Melissa (C’94, MAC’99), senior director of LIFE advising, are both UD alumni and employees. What is it about the University of Dubuque that makes you proud to be a Spartan?

“The only way to truly be proud of what you do is to invest all that you have and actually achieve positive results. Our students invest a lot in us, so I invest as much as I can back into them. We’ve grown as a program, had success, and we aren’t done yet. Our Mission and the Diamond standard is about providing our students with the best experience possible and I firmly believe track and field and cross country does their best to serve that mission and meet that standard. The work we do here matters and I’m proud to come to work each and every day!”