“There are a lot of ways to do track and field, and I like to think ours is a good way: for camaraderie, fun, education and good results. I do the best I can based on what I remember as an athlete and the feedback I get from Bowdoin students I trust,” Associate Director of Athletics for Facilities and Assistant Coach of track and field Lynn Ruddy once wrote in an email to her former athlete Louis Duffus-Artman ’07.
Humble, motivated and kind, with a focus on the growth of others, this email exemplifies Ruddy’s approach to her time at Bowdoin. As the second full-time female coach at Bowdoin, Ruddy began her career with the college in 1976. She started the women’s volleyball program and served as the head coach of softball and assistant coach for swimming and diving.
At the end of this academic year, Ruddy will retire, leaving a 45-year legacy.
While Ruddy has coordinated athletic scheduling at the College for many years, first and foremost, she has always been a coach.
“Coaching is why I was hired, and then other things just evolved as Bowdoin grew and our programs grew,” Ruddy said.
While Ruddy’s contributions to the athletic department have been irreplaceable, her impact on her athletes over the years has been truly remarkable. Her athletes treasure her advice and experience, and it will be sorely missed.
Former track and field hurdler Sara Ory ’19 described how Ruddy made all of her athletes feel welcome.
“[Ruddy] deals with a lot of different types of athletes, both boys and girls, but also different events, and she extends beyond just the hurdling crew,” Ory said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It’s very clear that she’s well-versed in how to coach such different types of athletes, but she also dealt with, as any coach does, different personalities, and [she] knew how to make practice accessible to everyone.”
To increase accessibility and acceptance, Ruddy would also make personal connections with her athletes, such as coming up with nicknames.
“She coined this nickname for me, and she would only refer to me as ‘Prime Time.’ Like ‘Hey, Prime Time, you ready to go today?’ Or ‘are you going to go when you’re ready?’ I got the feeling that it was a little bit tongue in cheek and, sometimes, when she wanted to, it was like ‘Prime Time! Come on—it’s Prime Time! Let’s go! Let’s take care of business!’” Joe Adu ’07, a former track and field hurdler, said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “I feel like she used it both as a way to admonish me and also encourage and motivate me for big events. What’s really cool is [when I graduated], she got me a hurdle that has Prime Time inscribed on it. I thought it was just so touching.”
Ruddy also made a point to be so close to her athletes that she knew their individual performances.
“As soon as she would see me at the meet, she was always asking how I was doing. If I told her what I threw, she always knew [how it was for me],” Duffus-Artman said in a phone interview with the Orient. “[She’d say,] ‘Oh great! So that was a PR!’ or ‘Oh sorry that must have been frustrating!’ Keeping straight everybody and what their performances are—that’s no easy role, and she was just a natural.”
However, Ruddy was also able to hold her athletes accountable. Duffus-Artman remembers an Eastern College Athletics Conference (ECAC) meet where she was outwardly frustrated and Ruddy stepped in to course correct her attitude.
“She pulled me aside and said ‘Whether you know it or not or realize it or not, there’s more eyes on you than I think you realize and you need to change your behavior. You’re not representing yourself or us very well and this is not like you,’” Duffus-Artman said. “You don’t always appreciate it in the moment, but it was so true, and it was one of those things that, maybe not in the moment but afterwards, I appreciated her saying that to me.”
As Ruddy prepares for retirement, she says the outpouring of appreciation from athletes has been unexpected.
“I’m getting a lot of emails from past athletes. It’s really sometimes hard to put into words the things that each person means to you and what you meant to them,” Ruddy said. “I didn’t think I was that nice. I didn’t know that I had touched so many people in so many ways. But they’re all saying it, so it must be true.”
Although 45 years might have felt like a long time, Ruddy has always had a genuine passion for what she does.
“When you have fun and you enjoy doing what you’re doing and you like the people you’re working with, you know, why leave? Why not stay? I get paid to do things I like to do,” Ruddy said. “If you like what you’re doing and feel as though you can advance—go for it! You’ll stay there longer, you’ll be a happier person and your mental health will be better, which will affect your physical health, so just be happy!”
As Ruddy looks back on her time at Bowdoin, she encourages her athletes and her students alike to consider what it means to be “okay.”
“Everybody thinks they have to be number one in everything they do. That’s exhausting. It’s absolutely exhausting. It’s okay to be okay,” Ruddy said. “You will find what your passion is, and you will put all your energies towards that.”