Before he earned 2010-11 All-Central Collegiate Hockey Association first-team honors or signed a two-year deal with the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning, Ferris State University’s standout goaltender Pat Nagle, of Bloomfield Hills, was a freshman trying to balance the many demands of being a college athlete. His determination to compete in the CCHA and graduate in four years with his Sports Marketing degree through Ferris’ College of Business — and the steady support of his parents, Lyle and June Nagel — proved to be a winning combination.
“We talked to him a lot and emphasized how important education was,” said Lyle. “We didn’t just focus our questions, concerns and interests on hockey.” He explained that parents can be involved in their children’s lives during college by guiding students to balance their goals and creating a pattern of steady communication and support rather than simply responding in moments of need.
Key to this support was face-to-face interaction as Pat adjusted to life on campus. An only child, he was used to being in his parents’ spotlight, and while college hockey play would ultimately earn him much wider renown, frequent visits by Lyle and June early in his college career helped the family create the support system that he needed for success.
“Coming up to visit campus and going with him to places in the community, especially freshman year, was very important,” explained Lyle. “It was good to get there, see where he was living, what he was doing, and who he was hanging around with. Often, you can have a better conversation than you would have over the phone, and it was good to see what his environment was.”
Pat’s parents were on hand for most of his games, as well. Lyle only missed six of them in Pat’s four years of play for Bulldog Hockey — the away games at University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“Hockey is just a travel sport, and we were so excited that he was going to Ferris because it was local, so we could drive there,” Lyle said. “And it was a fun way for us to get out of town, too.”
As proud as they are of Pat’s accomplishments on the ice, however, Lyle and June are equally proud of his promising new degree.
“What Pat has achieved is way beyond any of our dreams,” Lyle explained. “Originally, his goal was to play in college, and his dream was to be in the CCHA. Everything else was extra.”
To some, Pat’s contract with Tampa Bay, signed in March 2011, may seem to eclipse his individual accomplishments at Ferris, but for student-athletes, college success is a war of inches. Pat’s days at Ferris began with a 7 a.m. workout at the Ewigleben Sports Complex, followed by a full morning and midday of classes, after which he returned to the Sports Complex for practice in the rink until the evening and homework. Pat had to have his ‘head in the game’ for a lot more than the game.
Adjusting to the non-stop schedule of college-level competition was a challenge at first, but Pat credits the approach his parents had fostered since his days playing sports in high school.
“When I was younger, I played hockey and baseball, but they made me get my homework done,” Pat said. “They supported me in sports, but they pushed me academically.”
He adds that, in college, both athletics and academics are much more competitive. He encourages parents of students, especially student-athletes, to set their students up for academic success early-on, helping them set goals and learn the importance of dedication. That way, when the students enter college, parents can spend more conversations listening and encouraging, rather than adding to pressures when students are already overwhelmed.
“I was also fortunate enough to have a good program advisor in Professor Laura Dix,” said Pat. “She really set me up with the right classes and was great at working around my schedule.”
For student-athletes, managing the requirements of their academic programs as well as their training and competition schedules can be a real challenge. Pat’s Sports Marketing major required him to complete all of the required courses for the Marketing degree, plus public relations coursework and a marketing internship.
“While many student-athletes would like to become career athletes, the reality is that their education will be the foundation for their professional careers after sports,” Dix explained. “Parents can help by encouraging their students to get to know their faculty in the classroom and to maintain a good relationship with their faculty advisors.”
Proud as Lyle is of Pat’s CCHA and NHL accomplishments, he said he’s even more proud that Pat achieved them while completing his degree successfully and on time. Lyle and June continue to be among the most active and generous supporters of Ferris State athletic programs.
“I had a great four years at Ferris and thank everyone there who encouraged me,” adds Pat. “I came a long way from freshman year — academically, on the ice and as an individual — and I’m looking forward to this next chapter.”