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Having A Ball

Friday, September 1, 2017

Jim Potter (left) with John and Lesley Neyland at the Potter Field Dedication event

Former intramural standout remembers life at Trinity under IM director Jim Potter

by Jeremy Gerlach

When John Neyland ’78 first came to Trinity, basketball was on his mind.

“I wanted to play on the varsity team here,” Neyland says. “But after a year of that, I quickly realized that intramural sports would be more fun.”

For the sake of his knees and his competitive spirit, Neyland recalls, he made the right decision. Neyland ended up as a regular on the intramural (IM) scene throughout his four years at Trinity before graduating with a broadcast journalism and film major and eventually launching a career in the professional printing industry.

And while Neyland fondly recalls his time playing IM sports, he also took time to remember longtime IM director Jim Potter ’63, ’67, who led the program for 33 years before retiring in 2000. Potter was recently honored in a ceremony on campus that dedicated the Trinity IM field in Potter’s name.

In the 1970s, the University’s IM program was a small, budding organization, boasting several sports leagues but in dire need of volunteer officials, coaches and other organizers. During this crucial period of growth, Potter served as the program’s “greatest asset,” Neyland says.

“Trinity’s IM program grew into what it is today because of Jim Potter,” Neyland says. “I can’t think of anyone more worthy to have a field named after them. This namesake should—rightly—live on forever.”

During Neyland’s time on campus—and beyond—Potter helped transform Trinity’s IM program into a nationally-praised organization with a comprehensive set of indoor and outdoor activities and a focused, enthusiastic group of student players and volunteer officials.

“Potter convinced me to spend time officiating sports, too,” Neyland says. “I was around him so much, I guess I got to know him through osmosis.”

Potter was well known for these types of positive relationships, Neyland recalls. As director, Potter was more than an organizer to the hundreds of men and women who came through the IM program; he was a coach and a mentor.

“I just remember how nice, how patient he was,” Neyland said. “No matter what sport you played, what level of competition you wanted to be involved in, or how much you may have struggled at first, he always listened to you. He was always pleasant to be around.”

Through that open and caring demeanor, Potter helped shape the IM program into a place where competition and friendships could flourish simultaneously, Neyland explains.

“One of the greatest things about the IM program wasn’t the games,” Neyland says. “It was all the friends I met through various IM activities. If you wanted to be competitive, there were enough good teams to play against, but if you wanted to just expand your culture, to meet people, there were enough coed games that were fun to play. You could fulfill any desire you had.”

While Neyland is retired now, he still takes both of Potter’s priorities —staying active and being friendly—to heart.

“I spend my time playing a lot of golf,” he says, “and doing whatever my wife tells me to do.”

Jeremy Gerlach is the brand journalist for Trinity University Marketing and Communications. Email him at jgerlach [at] trinity.edu or tweet to @JT_Gerlach.