The job was going well.
In just 18 months as a fuel pricing manager for Empire Petroleum Partners, Zack Schroeder had already earned two promotions, quite an accomplishment for a guy who had taken a position outside his wheelhouse while his wife Megan fulfilled her final two-year tour of duty in the Navy at NAS Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth.
“They were hiring former military officers,” said Schroeder, a Long Island native and Naval Academy graduate whose five-year career had taken him to the Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, and NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka in Guam. “I thought: Fuel. Texas. Makes sense. I decided to give it a try."
Zack enjoyed the new challenges and took satisfaction in his success. His future in the company was bright.
There was one catch, though.
“There was no passion behind what I was doing,” he said.
A high school and college lacrosse player who was coaching club lacrosse in the Dallas area, Zack had come to the realization that his real passion lay in the realm of athletics.
“I decided I wanted to be in sports and coach in high school,” he said. “That was where I wanted to be long term.”
The first step was to enroll in an online graduate program in sports administration at the University of Miami. He crushed it with a 3.93 grade point average.
His first sports-related job was as director of operations for men’s lacrosse at the University of Maryland under John Tillman, who had been an assistant coach at Navy during Schroeder’s freshman year.
“The relationship was there,” Zack said. “I told him, ‘I know I don’t have any relevant experience except being a college lacrosse player, but I have logistics experience.’ I made it through the first interview. Then I came on campus. He offered me the job.”
The spring of 2017, Zack’s first season on the job, the Terrapins won the NCAA championship.
For the better part of three years, Zack supported Tillman and his staff by fulfilling a wide variety of duties including managing the budget, coordinating fundraising for alumni events, arranging travel, and ordering equipment. He also oversaw a mentorship program designed to prepare players for post-college life.
“It was one-on-one coaching and helping them get internships and jobs,” he said. “A lot of kids don’t start thinking about their future until their junior or senior year. It was really satisfying to help them start thinking about it early on and watch them grow and mature and be successful in the real world.”
While on vacation during Thanksgiving weekend in 2018, Zack received a call from Joe Amplo, late of Marquette and the newly-hired head lacrosse coach at Navy, inquiring about his interest in returning to his alma mater as video and technology coordinator.
“It was tough to leave Maryland,” Zack said. “We were a successful program. I was enjoying it, but I was ready to move on to something else. We were already living in Annapolis, and this was my school.”
He made the move in 2019 and quickly found himself providing tech, video, and logistical support for both the football and lacrosse programs. It was another great experience, he said, and serving the institution where he played lacrosse as a long-stick midfielder was both meaningful and fulfilling.
“But it wasn’t what I wanted to do long-term,” he said. “I love college athletics, but I wanted to try the high school level to see what that was about and to get a little more work-life balance for my family (Megan, daughter Brynnlee, who’s 9, and son Griffin, 5).”
At about the same time, he learned that Collegiate was interviewing for assistant athletic director positions, so he inquired, liked what he saw, and applied.
He came on board July 1.
“You could totally see Zack’s attention to detail because of the types of jobs he’d had,” said athletic director Karen Doxey. “We were looking for someone who was eager and raring to go and would take on details and take pride in doing the job right. You could see the passion…and he enjoys working with kids.”
In addition to assistant AD duties, Zack will assist with varsity lacrosse.
“When you get student-athletes in college, they’re almost like the finished product,” he said. “You can mold them a little bit, but I wanted the chance to make a bigger impact earlier in their lives and really help them. I took the job because of the administrative position. Coaching was a bonus. I love coaching.”
Even for a guy with a depth and breadth of organizational and logistical experience, the learning curve has been steep but hardly daunting.
“You don’t know what you don’t know coming from college athletics,” Zack said. “I’ve already learned a lot from Karen and (associate AD) Andrew Stanley. Every day, I learn something new. Every day, I’m excited to come to work. You can’t ask for more than that.”