Berkeley Today Stories
Sharod Tomlinson, Assistant Dean, Student Development and Campus Life, New York, and Head Coach of the Women’s Basketball team, has worked to build a culture that encourages students to win not only on the court, but in life.
Berkeley College Coach Mentors Students in the Game of Life
When Patricia Patterson’s grandmother passed away last year, she closed herself off emotionally.
“I just isolated myself,” said the 23-year-old Berkeley College student.
What finally helped her out of her depression were conversations with her basketball coach and mentor, Sharod Tomlinson.
“He made sure to text me every day to see how I was doing and he shared stories about losing his loved ones,” she said. “He keeps it real on and off the court.”
Ms. Patterson is just one of the many students Mr. Tomlinson has befriended since he joined Berkeley College in 2008. He has worked to build a culture that encourages students to win not only on the court, but in life, he said. Part of this initiative is the “Success Circle,” where students drop by his office daily to discuss everything from world events to life lessons.
“We have many conversations about overcoming adversity and rising above the limitations or expectations that others have of them,” said Mr. Tomlinson, who in addition to coaching serves as Assistant Dean, Student Development and Campus Life, New York.
Catering to the “whole person” is especially important at Berkeley, where many students face pressures beyond those of a traditional college student. Mr. Tomlinson said some of his players work overnight jobs and take care of older family members or children. Others don’t know what genuine caring is, he said, and he makes it his priority to “show up when it counts.”
“As a coach, your job is not done when practice or a game is over,” he said, adding that he has attended births and funerals, marriages and graduations.
Mr. Tomlinson has seen many successes as Head Coach of the Women’s Basketball team, which this year was ranked No. 1 in the nation by the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Coaches Poll. He was named Co-Coach of the Year after a successful 2013-2014 season, which culminated in the team’s first-ever Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season championship.
But despite these achievements, Mr. Tomlinson said his greatest joy comes off the court.
“My most memorable moments are seeing my players graduate,” he said. “I never want these young ladies to be defined as basketball players who go to college – but instead as scholars who play basketball.”
Mr. Tomlinson’s journey in mentorship began close to home. He spent seven years as the Youth Pastor of St. Luke Baptist Church in Laurelton, Queens, where he now serves as Associate Minister. He also has volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City; Covenant House, a New York-based initiative that supports homeless, runaway and at-risk youth; and Dean Kids Inc., an organization in Brooklyn that empowers youth through basketball and education.
“Sharod is a faith advisor to many kids and their families,” said Anton Marchand, founder of Dean Kids Inc., adding that when Mr. Tomlinson volunteers at athletic tournaments, his conversations with players are often about more than just basketball. “He often has to have the difficult conversations.”
Ms. Patterson agreed, saying that her coach motivates her to reach higher.
“Anyone who has ever met Mr. Tomlinson will say he helped them in some way,” she said. “He inspires me to be better and want better.”