October 1, 2007
Practice makes perfect
By laura sommer
Tim Downes is the director of athletics and recreation.
Aristotle once said, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” That’s good news for Emory Athletics. Tim Downes, the recently recruited director of athletics and recreation, lives and breathes sports. He has since he was a young boy.
A natural athlete
“As a 5-year-old I remember batting four-for-four in my very first baseball game. Granted, I was hitting off of a tee and I don’t think there were any infielders or outfielders, but it was a great, great feeling and kept me wanting to come back for more,” Downes recalls. And that he did. Downes went on to play a multitude of sports as an adolescent. His greatest love is lacrosse — a sport he played with tremendous success in both high school and college.
“At the end of my last season at Dartmouth I played in an all-star game. I was on the same team with my best friend from high school and my best friend from college,” he says. “I couldn’t think of a better
way to conclude my playing career.”
Following graduation from Dartmouth in 1988, Downes served as assistant coach for the lacrosse and soccer programs at Washington and Lee University while attending Washington and Lee School of Law.
That’s right. Downes is a lawyer.
“Even though I’m licensed to practice in the state of Maryland, the law degree has never been officially put to use. But my legal training comes in handy on a daily basis and would with just about any profession,” explains Downes.
Downes’ career path takes on an almost comical feel in light of his family’s professional backgrounds.
“The half of my family in the law profession told me not to be a lawyer; the half of my family who are teachers
told me not to get into education. I similarly dis-pleased both sides,” jokes Downes.
Downes comes to Emory having held high-profile positions at universities around the country, the most recent being Franklin and Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pa., where he had served as director of athletics and recreation since August 2004.
Emory’s urban setting is a welcome change. “I’ve been struck by how mature and cosmopolitan Atlanta is, as well as by the fact that it’s been a month now and I’ve yet to see a horse and buggy,” says Downes.
Despite the move, Downes’ personal life has remained virtually the same. His family still enjoys Mexican cuisine for Sunday night dinner and bagels on Saturday mornings. And Downes continues to juggle a busy weekday schedule. He’s up by 6 a.m. to walk the family dog, George. Then it’s time for a jog. Afterward, it’s hurry up and get ready for work and drop 7-year-old daughter, Kelly, off at school.
“The rest of my day is usually taken up with meetings and hopefully an athletics contest or two,” he says. “If we don’t have any contests, I like to be home for dinner, a walk with the family and to help Beth put the kids to bed.”
Beth Downes says achieving that delicate work-life balance comes naturally to her husband. “He’s fiercely loyal and has an amazing work ethic and will do anything in the world for the people he cares about, whether that’s his wife, three children or every single athlete at Emory,” she says. “The students at Emory, and especially me, are incredibly lucky to have him in our lives.”
A family affair
Daughter Kelly and sons 4-year-old Drew and 19-month-old Will have a blast attending the Emory Eagles games. “Their attention spans don’t necessarily allow them to sit through entire events, but they definitely love running up and down the stands and making a lot of noise,” says Downes.
Downes acknowledges that family is important to him and says his father is the most influential person in his life. He also finds great strength from his friends, who typically double as former teammates. “You share a lot with your teammates and so I think it’s just natural that my closest friends are former teammates,” he says. “By choosing a career in college athletics, I’ve also been able to stay in touch with old coaches and, more importantly, grow to appreciate how much they did for me.”
The circle of life
And what goes around comes around. As an athletics director, Downes is now the person student athletes look up to — a role he doesn’t mind one bit. In fact, he says the most rewarding part of his job is when he can “sit in the back of the stands and watch our coaches and students celebrate a big win.”
Downes goes on to say that the opportunity to watch those same student athletes walk across the stage at graduation is equally rewarding. “I have the best job in all of college athletics,” he says.