Knudsen returns to alma mater to become AD
On Harvest Christian's logo is the motto, "Once a Lion, always a Lion."
Look no further than the school's new athletic director for proof.
Sydney Knudsen, a 2014 alum, was named AD this summer, returning to a school where she excelled at three sports including leading the volleyball team to its first regional championship.
Knudsen also played volleyball in college at Grand Valley State in Michigan. She studied hospitality, sports management, business and marketing.
Harvest Christian had an opening as assistant AD, and Knudsen was back working at her alma mater the day after driving home from graduating college. Two years later, she's in charge of the athletic department.
"I'm a young-in here but have a lot of sports under my belt already," Knudsen said.
With her former coaches like track and cross country's Steven Bland still at the school, it has made the transition easier for Knudsen, who lives in Elgin and has a younger brother at the school.
"It made coming onto staff really easy," Knudsen said. "It definitely helps having gone to school here."
Knudsen takes over at a most unusual time. Usually ADs have months to put together a schedule; Knudsen scrambled to get this fall's revised lineup out in weeks.
She said the school did lose a few families because of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, though they also gained some who wanted an in-learning experience for their children.
Overall Knudsen said the high school has 141 students, down slightly from 146. She now is waiting for the IHSA to decide on the transfers' eligibility.
"COVID impacted where they wanted to go to school," Knudsen said. "The IHSA has a clause about special circumstances, and if ever there was a special circumstance COVID-19 is one."
Knudsen has some specific goals for the department. She wants to start a softball program, perhaps as a co-op for a year. There's already a field at Harvest.
She's also excited about using the school's campus to host cross country meets Sept. 5, 12, 19, 26 and Oct. 3. They are opening the course for any school in Kane and DuPage County no matter the size, and the first race already includes Benet, Rosary, IC Catholic Prep, St. Edward, Aurora Central Catholic, St. Francis, Hinckley Big Rock, Yorkville Christian and Westminster Christian.
Knudsen said they will have heat races with waves of runners, depending on the number of schools, with multiple races at each level. They then will compare times of all the races to determine the winning team and individual.
"We are fortunate enough to have a great course on our campus, a one mile loop through the forest," Knudsen said. "It's great for spectators and runners, we have areas for teams to be, it will work really well with COVID. We will work really hard to make this work."
Knudsen's overall vision for the athletic department starts with "building our athletes younger." She wants the middle school students to develop all-around abilities that will serve them well in multiple sports when they get to high school.
"We don't necessarily need to teach kids individual sport skills, we need to teach our kids how to build some athleticism," Knudsen said. "We need them to be athletes first and foremost.
"I'm looking forward to developing some really strong leaders and followers in the world of athletics. During my time as an athlete I got to experience both. I just want our kids to love each other as athletes especially in these times."