While athletics is an integral part of our contemporary society, providing a measure of fun and entertainment, it can also be used as a conduit for student success. Athletic training provides a framework for students to learn responsibility, team-building and self-development. Vance Manakas is the athletics director at Moorpark College. He began his career at Moorpark College as a classified college trainer and adjunct professor in 1981. A Long Beach, California, native, Manakas earned his Bachelor and Master of Science in Physical Education with a credential in Athletic Training from California State University, Fullerton, and the University of Arizona, respectively.
Over the years, Manakas has seen athletics at Moorpark College grow to a year round endeavor. The college currently has more than 300 student athletes and impressively holds a 92 percent retention rate for these students. Many who enter collegiate athletics aspire to go professional. Manakas emphasized that "Moorpark College supports its student athletes and encourages them to pursue their dreams. The most important goal, however, is to earn an education; with that focus, if they miss the moon, they will land amongst the stars." Students take heed to this message. In 2015-16, the Raiders men’s basketball team was named the Western State Conference Scholar-Athlete Team and the California Community College Athletic Association Scholar Team with the highest GPA in the state for basketball. "While we’re very excited about these achievements, we’re also very proud of the men’s baseball team for piloting a study hall program," stated Manakas.
The Athletics Department provides students an opportunity to play sports on a competitive collegiate level while completing their general education requirements. Baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, as well as women’s golf and softball, are among the various program offerings.
"College athletics is something that keeps students engaged and going in the right direction." From an academic perspective, student athletes must enroll in a minimum of 12 units, 9 of which must be academic, to retain full-time status. We help them create a balanced and feasible schedule. "If you ask an academic instructor ideal traits they want in a student, leadership, commitment, dedication, and working well with others, are traits they would name; student athletes possess all of these" explained Manakas.
Under Manakas’ leadership, the department takes pride in academic success and also empowers professional development. As the Athletics Director, Manakas works with local four-year institutions to promote the field of athletic training. He is an affiliate faculty at California State University, Northridge, which allows him to mentor prospective athletic trainers. In mentoring, he is able to bring prospective trainers to Moorpark College where they gain experience in the field and Moorpark College students benefit from the experience of connecting with students who are already at a four-year university.
For Manakas, reaching back is especially important. "One year I attended a conference where a student shared his plans to attend medical school. Before then, I never realized how I affected him" said Manakas. "After the speech, the student stated it was talks in the training room at Moorpark College that led him in that direction."
With the current addition of men’s wrestling and emerging sports such as beach volleyball, the Moorpark College athletics program is undoubtedly progressing. Looking back, "Moorpark College gave a young man a chance," the 2015 Board of Governors Classified Employee of the Year shared reflectively. With a rare and fruitful life-long career at Moorpark College, the athletics department under Manakas’ leadership is all about growth and giving back to establish legacies of student success.