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|Volunteer Feature: Don Murray’s love of the sport and drive for perfection fuels his volunteer passion|
By Erin Phipps USA Wrestling
Most people know Don Murray as an associate professor of physical education and the Head Wrestling Coach at SUNY Brockport, a man who in his 35 years there has formed an elite wrestling program. Over the years, Murray has coached top ranking athletes, including 27 national champions and 128 All-Americans. Under his leadership, the SUNY Brockport Golden Eagles have won five NCAA Div. III championships, 23 SUNYAC titles, three New York State titles and recently, their seventh Empire Conference Championship.
Within USA Wrestling, many also know him as a dedicated volunteer leader, who has given countless hours to promoting the sport through leadership at events and on various committees, such as the International Relations Committee and as chairman of the Northeast Junior Committee.
To Murray, volunteering is as much about promoting the sport as it is a personal satisfaction.
"I enjoy [wrestling events] and it contributes to wrestling as a coach and a teacher of physical education. I think it's a great experience to see how an event is conducted and experience it first hand," said Murray.
Murray keeps a busy schedule, molding a championship team of wrestlers, and teaching courses in sport psychology, scientific foundation of coaching, fitness and wellness, as well as beginners, intermediate and advanced wrestling courses. However, he doesn't find that outside time spent volunteering for wrestling events is an extra burden.
"It really doesn't take up that much time because I enjoy doing it," Murray said. "It's almost like a hobby. Always when I do [events], USA Wrestling sends in first class people to operate it. It's just a pleasure working with them"
One of his upcoming events is the Northeast Junior and Senior Regional Championships, which will be held in SUNY Brockport's North Tuttle Gym, Apr. 21-23. On the Senior level, the Northeast Regionals serve as a qualifier for the women's World Team Trials. It's an event that Murray takes very seriously, and does a great job of managing and conducting the tournament.
Murray has many responsibilities for such a large event. His most important ones are "to make sure everything goes perfectly, to make sure USA Wrestling is represented well and to make sure the wrestlers are in a good environment where they can enjoy themselves, feel safe and can really excel."
Murray also gets the students at SUNY Brockport involved with wrestling events that are on the campus. Murray divides event responsibilities among fraternity members on campus that are involved with sport management. At all of his events, Murray ensures everything is done correctly.
"They do it right or I flunk them," said Murray. "They need to do it correctly. Believe me, when you put a grade on them, every one shows up and does what they're supposed to do."
Murray also sees the benefits from volunteering at USA Wrestling events, not just to him as a coach and teacher, but also to his students.
"It helps them be exposed to the best athletes and wrestlers in the country and it gives them the experience of how to conduct the events," said Murray.
Murray first got involved with national-level wrestling while hosting AAU wrestling camps. In the early years of the organization, USA Wrestling leaders approached him about running some of their camps for young wrestlers. He's been helping the organization ever since.
"Don Murray is the epitome of what a superlative volunteer encompasses," said Mark Scott, Director of State Services for USA Wrestling. "Over the last 25 plus years, Don has volunteered his time and expertise in about every facet of the organization. He has been a volunteer coach, an event director, a club coach, a youth leader and a national committee member for all of those years."
Murray has volunteered by leading several U.S. wrestling teams to international championship meets, including the 1975 Junior World team in Bulgaria. In the past, Murray has also helped in promoting numerous international duals between the U.S. and national teams from the Soviet Union, Mongolia, Morocco and Cuba.
Murray has also brought the caliber of Olympic athletes to SUNY Brockport, when the college hosted the U.S. Senior World and Junior World Championships for three years. Brockport was host to the 1976 and 1980 Trial events for the Olympic teams. The school also hosted the East Regional Olympic Trials in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004.
USA Wrestling honored Murray in 1998 with its Junior Person of the Year award, given to him for his efforts to build and strengthen the sport on the Junior level.
"He has given countless hours in providing programs for wrestlers at every level to succeed and experience the great aspects of wrestling. Don has done so much for so many and has done so willingly as a tremendous volunteer in our great sport," said Scott.
With everything he has done, Murray brings an air of perfection and professionalism to the wrestling events he is involved in.
"I feel that we put [an event] on well by doing it correctly and showing other people how do it," said Murray.
In order to represent the sport well, Murray requires all of the volunteer workers to dress professionally-a dress shirt and tie for the men, and appropriate dress for the women.
"I want them to be professional," said Murray. "If you wear a shirt and tie, you're respected a lot more. In physical education, I'm teaching them to be professionals."
Murray adds that he's received many compliments about his well attired workers, and adds that the professional attire has helped many of his students find jobs.
Personally, Murray most enjoys seeing the events he runs done correctly and working with the other volunteers who give their time and efforts to the sport.
"The people I'm exposed to and the friends I've made have been tremendous," said Murray. You can't put a value on that. They're just first class people."
Volunteers like Murray are the backbone of USA Wrestling events, making it possible for wrestlers to compete and thus excel in the sport. His efforts to promote the sport over the years have not only been a benefit to USA Wrestling and the wrestling community as a whole, but to those who have grown through the sport as a result of his involvement. He has touched the lives of thousands of young people, and made a positive difference in the wrestling community.
TheMat.com will run regular features on its volunteers, telling their inspiring stories of service to the sport. Send suggestions of volunteers to profile to Gary Abbott via email at email@example.com.