The Luckiest Man in the World: Director of Athletics Pete Meyer

May 16, 2018

by Salma Nawlo
Assistant Director of Communications

Thirty national championships. Over 20 NCAA Division II men and women’s sports. Around 60 coaches and staff who never cease to inspire and motivate student-athletes and defeat the competition.

Present and active during the recent history of this success has been Florida Southern’s Director of Athletics Pete Meyer, whose two-decade-and-counting tenure at this institution has not only advanced the set of challenging yet rewarding standards for our athletes, but also has fostered for him a fervent loyalty to FSC’s mission and vision.

Since taking on his current position in 2008, the Moccasins have won four of those team national championships in three sports along with 14 individual national titles — and these are just some of the many achievements gained under his leadership. FSC’s athletic teams have won many other SSC titles, awards and competitions, from the SSC Mayors Cup to high finishes in the Learfield Director’s Cup.

Meyer humbly credits none of this success to himself. Instead, he praises FSC coaches and student-athletes for the high-caliber performances on the field and in the classrooms.

“Pete is there when we need him...There’s a level of trust that he has for us that allows us as coaches to do our job without interference.”
Women's Tennis Coach Trish Riddell

“First, remember that Florida Southern already had an established championship history when I came on board,” he said. “You can go down the line for half a century of success. I have the onus of continuing to demand that tradition of excellence.”

The secret to his success? Recruiting well and making sure not to over-coach — a philosophy taught by his father and a philosophy that ensures his coaches get support in ways it matters.

“I don’t stand over the basketball or baseball coach, for example, and micromanage everything they do. I stay out of the way. Instead, I make sure there are quality facilities, and provide the right environment and help seek out additional resources. I’m a cheerleader in the background.”

Attesting to that is coach Trish Riddell who has been leading the women’s tennis team for 13 years at Florida Southern.

“Pete lets us do our job and is definitely there when we need him,” she said. “He offers support and encouragement. There’s a level of trust that he has for us that allows us as coaches to do our job without interference.”

Riddell is also currently pursuing her education doctorate at Florida Southern. She credits Meyer’s inspiration and support to make that decision to take that next step in advancing her professional career.

Meyer explained that during the recruitment process, he searches for coaches who not only have experience and prior success, but also that drive to excel, like Riddell. Doing so means he’s choosing quality leaders who can handle themselves on their own during practice sessions, a game, and when mentoring.

For him, this also means coaches will practice that same philosophy when they recruit, inevitably bringing in top student-athletes with whom coaches will build strong and effective relationships that you can see on and off the field or court.

“It works. You see results from that method. Right now, for example, we have four student-athletes who’ve made the Watch List for national awards across all divisions — and they’re the only Division II players,” he said. “Then you look at their GPAs and understand why. We’re looking at top academics with a department GPA over 3.4. They’re quality students. Quality athletes. They want to come here. And they want to stay here.”

According to Meyer, all of this wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for Florida Southern’s innate mission, its growth potential, and the community it attracts.

“The support from the administration, Lakeland community and boosters is beyond comparison. We’re sitting on a gold mine. When I leave, this isn’t going to change. The next person is going to do the same thing. I’m just lucky to be driving the bus. It makes me the luckiest man in the world. This is home.”