WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - The Penn State Coaches Caravan officially came to a close Thursday evening, wrapping up with an evening event in Williamsport following an afternoon stop in Altoona
Across four days, seven stops and nearly 970 miles, Penn State's fifth Coaches Caravan crisscrossed the state, greeting passionate fans and alumni. Share the Penn State story, each member of Caravan reflected on everything from surging student-athlete success to exciting future plans and goals.
"Our vision statement is preparing student-athletes for a lifetime of impact and that is our number one priority, but along the way we also serve our community," Penn State director of athletics Sandy Barbour said. "We serve Penn State as an academic institution and being valuable to the institution, and part of that is engaging with our community."
With living alumni in far more places than just Pennsylvania, the opportunity to truly engage in the community serves many purposes aside from giving back to those who have so passionately shown their support in a variety of ways.
"I love listening to our alumni, our community talk about what they like, what they don't like, what they're concerned about, what they're happy about - that helps me in how we go about our daily business, particularly on the alumni and community engagement side of it," Barbour said.
Stop 6: Altoona (Penn State Altoona)
The bus pulled out of the parking lot at the Bryce Jordan Center at 9:30 a.m. headed down Interstate 99 to Altoona.
Greeted by a vibrant crowd, Penn State coaches Erica Dambach and Tim Murphy again joined Barbour and James Franklin on stage for a second show.
highlights, all three coaches spoke to creating and fostering a competitive
atmosphere that challenges student-athletes to continually strive for success
at the highest level from the moment they arrive on campus.
"My promise to student-athletes is challenge and support because really, 'we are' is for a lifetime," Murphy said.
For Franklin, it was the approach to embracing a challenge that helped the Nittany Lions to a historic 2016 Big Ten Championship season, culminating in Penn State's fourth Rose Bowl appearance in program history.
"For us, the success of our season really came down to details, hard work and doing the little things," Franklin said.
Stop 7: Williamsport (Genetti Hotel/Williamsport
Cultural Arts Center)
After lunch in Altoona, the Caravan back tracked a bit, passing by Happy Valley on the way to Williamsport for the final stop. Arriving at the historic Genetti Hotel, a nearly 100-year-old structure, the program took place right next door at the ornate Williamsport Cultural Arts Center, built in 1928.
As has been the case at nearly every spot on the entire Coaches Caravan, it's not hard to generate enthusiasm and energy surrounding the Penn State story, as deputy athletic director Phil Esten noted that he likes to refer to Penn State as an "and" university.
"When I say Penn State is an 'and' university, I mean Penn State is about the classroom, and the community, and character and success," Esten said.
Perhaps the best part of all of the 'and' items mixed together though, is what Esten noted as the foundation of the 'Penn State way.'
For Dambach, reflective of the Penn State way means putting together a total four-year plan for women's soccer student-athletes that involves all aspects of not only academic and off the field assistance, but also nutrition and strength training specifically targeted at ensuring each member of the team is on track to meet both short and long term goals.
"In 2015, when we won our first national championship, we had total buy in from the entire team," Dambach said. "When that happens not only do you see a difference in how individuals perform, but they also tend to put the goals of the team before self."
Penn State officially concluded the 2017 Coaches Caravan arm in arm, with one final singing of the Nittany Lion alma mater before boarding the bus back to Happy Valley.
University Park to York - 114.4 miles
York to King of Prussia - 83.9 miles
King of Prussia to Hazleton: 95.6 miles
Hazleton to Harrisburg: 881. Miles
Harrisburg to University Park: 98.2 miles
University Park to Pittsburgh: 138 miles
Pittsburgh to University Park: 138 miles
University Park to Altoona: 44.4 miles
Altoona to Williamsport: 106 miles
Williamsport to University Park: 60.9 miles
Coaches Caravan round trip total: 967.5 miles