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The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Part I: Yariv Amir’s Journey From Colgate Student-Athlete to Athletic Director

Colgate Magazine

This article is Part One of a three-part series written after an interview with Athletic Director Yariv Amir earlier this semester. Part Two will discuss Amir’s professional experience and extensive background working with student-athletes. Part Three will dive into Amir’s long-term vision for Colgate Athletics in the University’s third century.

Colgate University alumnus Yariv Amir ’01, now vice president and director of athletics, is certainly not just starting his leadership journey. Amir began leading athletes back in 2001, when he was a co-captain and role model on the Colgate men’s rowing team during its first year at the varsity level. The skills he developed during his time as a Colgate rower put him on a path to becoming a hardworking, level-headed and dedicated director of the athletics community today.

Even before his captainship, Amir was a leader on the rowing team. Alumnus Eric Summers ’91, a former Colgate rower and the assistant coach of the men’s rowing team, coached Amir during his sophomore and junior seasons. Summers described Amir’s leadership on the team.

“He was a quiet guy, really led by example with the team,” Summers said. “But when he spoke, people listened […]. People were always being attached to him. He’s always had good things to say when he did talk, but he mostly led by example.”

Summers also detailed how Amir’s character transferred to his time on the water, as well.

“[Amir was] very steady [with] calm influence,” Summers said. “He’s very level, even-keeled and he was great to have in the stroke seat of my varsity eight.”

This calmness transfers to his role as athletic director today. Meghan Kovac, associate athletics director for leadership and inclusion, described how Amir’s composure builds confidence within the athletics staff.

“[Amir] goes about everything with such a sense of calm,” Kovac said. “If there’s ever a quick decision that needs to be made, or if there’s people with different points of view or perspectives in the room and he’s helping to mediate or if he just has to make a big decision and be the boss, he’s coming at it with a sense of calm that just instills so much confidence in what he’s saying.”

Amir’s steady presence is also supported by his hard work and determination, Kovac explained.

“But [Amir] also backs it up with showing that he’s able to do the work,” Kovac said. “I think having a calm and hardworking presence has been something that has really made me feel super confident in every single thing that he’s done prior to becoming the athletic director and now being the athletic director.”

Amir’s hard-working spirit started during his time as a student-athlete. The alumnus reflected on some of his favorite and grueling memories of rowing for Colgate.

“One of my favorite memories is [from] when Eric [Summers] was our coach — it had to be sophomore or junior year. We used to come down here to lift at 5:00 in the morning, and we used to walk upstairs and lay down on the floor in Huntington [Gymnasium] in a circle with the lights turned off. Then the lights would turn on, and we’d groan,” Amir said. “And one time, in the cold of winter erging, we did our stretch routine, and then Eric told us to go home, not upstairs. I think some people cried that day.”

Summers similarly remembered Amir’s determined mentality as an athlete and discussed how it now makes his leadership as athletic director so transformative.

“This is a good place to work, no small part [due] to his leadership,” Summers said. “The hard work obviously makes a big difference, […] and rowing is very hard work. There is no question that that carries over into the rest of his life.”

Head coach of the women’s rowing team, Jim Lister, discussed how rowing trains people to work hard in all aspects of life, something that Amir demonstrates.

“I think rowing certainly puts us in a lot of situations that are really challenging when we face them,” Lister said. “Any endurance sport athlete is familiar with learning how to go hard. We practice it, and then we’re tested in a race. So I feel that when we’re doing those things, we’re learning how to overcome hardships or learning how to press through something, and I think those lessons are things that train us for life.”

Rowing requires athletes to work hard, not just alone but also together. Sophomore Ellie Myatt on the women’s rowing team reflected on how rowing taught her to persevere with others.

“Rowing has taught me to be really hard-working,” Myatt said. “There’s something super unique about having to mix up boats, and every single boat is so particular about working together that you really have to learn how to integrate with people on a different level. I think you also have to learn how to work both internally and externally at the same time […] because you’re in an eight-minute race that you need to push yourself through, but you also need to support your teammates.”

Rowing requires everyone in the boat to be in sync, communicating and working together to go as fast as possible, building trust between athletes that is dependent on hard work. Junior James Burke on the men’s rowing team echoed the importance of teamwork in the boat and the lessons it has taught him.

“On the water and especially in the spring season, we really need to be able to work together. You can’t move a boat on your own, and every single person needs to be having the same stroke, following each other and applying the same pressure,” Burke said. “I think an important part of what we do is having trust in each other to bring their best to every single race. All it takes is one person to mess around and then the entire race result could be completely different. So I think one of the main values I’ve learned being in a team is trust and trusting my teammates.”

This integral teamwork in rowing is something Amir feels not only shapes his approach to being an athletic director but to life in general. Amir described the key values of teamwork he learned in rowing that he utilizes today.

“As athletic director, but just [for] anything in life, relying on other people, making sure everyone is in sync and has the same plan or understanding of the plan, […] that everyone has a different role, but all the pieces put together get you where you need to go […] applies in everything you do,” Amir said.

Of course, Amir’s love for Colgate has been clear since his beginning investment in athletics to his leadership today. Amir first walked onto the rowing team because of his school pride.

“I was really proud to be at Colgate and wanted to compete for or represent Colgate in other ways,” Amir said.

To have an athletic director who is not only an alumnus of the school but of the athletic department itself is special. Amir’s deep pride for Colgate is over two decades in the making. Kovac reflected on how Amir’s background as a former Colgate athlete is unique and brings added passion to his work.

“[Amir’s] story is really unique in the fact that you don’t really see a lot of athletic directors that are [alumni] of their institutions. [Amir] clearly loves this place,” Kovac said.

Having someone so invested in Colgate Athletics is extremely valuable to the school. Lister echoed how Amir’s passion for the University is apparent across the entire athletics department.

“People really care about Colgate. Everyone was excited to see his promotion and I think that reflects them knowing that he also cares deeply about Colgate,” Lister said. “I think it was a great choice for Colgate to find someone who is passionate about Colgate and to also have that full department support, and I think it’s a really exciting time for Colgate Athletics to have that leadership from somebody who is so connected to the [school].”

Amir’s connections to Colgate go beyond his professional life. His wife, alumna Beth Wood-Amir ’00, was a coxswain for the men’s team at the same time Amir was on it, and that’s where they met. Today, their family home sits on a hill behind the Hamilton Inn, where they can hear the rowing team practicing on Lake Moraine. Wood-Amir wrote about their love story for the Colgate Magazine in 2019.

“The sound of the oarlocks and the barking of the coxswain over the microphone are great memories of how we met,” Wood-Amir wrote.

When asked if his time on the rowing team was life-changing, Amir’s response was affirmative. From his deeply held school pride to calm leadership to dedication, Colgate is lucky to have someone who has been developing these values for over two and a half decades — starting with his decision to walk onto the rowing team in 1998.

“I think it’s probably pretty fair to say that I wouldn’t be here today [if I hadn’t walked onto the team],” Amir said. “It’s crazy, right? How many of those decisions do you have in your life?”

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About the Contributor
Elli Ament
Elli Ament, Managing Editor
Elli Ament is a senior from Littleton, CO concentrating in history with a focus on cultural history and media. She has previously served as a Commentary Editor, Assistant Commentary Editor, and as a staff writer for the Commentary and News sections. On campus, Elli is a member of the Women’s Rowing Team.

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