‘This my passion:’ At 25, new Valley AD Sturtevant has wide range of experiences
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Sam Sturtevant attended a boarding school. He is a former manager of a Division I basketball team. He has traveled all over the country.
He has had internships with multiple NBA teams and a semipro women’s basketball team.
He has a master’s degree. He has been an assistant high school athletic director.
He has done all this, and he is only 25 years old.
While developing his unique background, he developed a passion for high school athletes. His next chapter takes him to Tippecanoe Valley, where he was named the new athletic director at a July 18 school board meeting.
Sturtevant replaces Aaron Butcher, who was hired as the new boys basketball coach at Hobart on June 16. Sturtevant said he knows Butcher from their AAU basketball connections and that Butcher aided Sturtevant in getting the job. Sturtevant had been an assistant athletic director at Plymouth.
Sturtevant said his previous experiences did not so much lead to this experience as much as it focused him on what he wanted to do next.
“My focus and my passion have shifted a little bit,” Sturtevant said. “I was so basketball-centric in college and working in the NBA, and I just felt like I was going to do that for the rest of my life. I realized after being the assistant AD at Plymouth and being named the athletic director at Tippy Valley, I want to be in that nine-to-12 grade group. I love that age group of kids. They’re very impressionable, and you can help them not only have success on the field or the court or whatever it may be, but you can also have success in the classroom. … You want to have that impact on them. … This is my passion, and this is what I wanted to do.”
Sturtevant was up to date on Valley’s recent athletic successes, and he found it appealing. He said that Valley is giving him the “tools and resources” to succeed.
“I just felt that that school had so much success, not only in the classroom but in sports as well, especially last year with football,” Sturtevant said. “They have a lot of positive momentum going, and I felt like it was the best move for my career.”
He called leaving Plymouth “a little emotional” and said that his family still lives there. He has said he has “circled the dates” on the calendar for all upcoming sporting events between Plymouth and Valley.
“There was nothing wrong with Plymouth,” Sturtevant said. “I loved being in Plymouth. That’s where I’m from. I loved who I worked for, but I just felt like it was necessary for me to take this step to take that next push in my career.”
He said he talked to Plymouth volleyball coach Jon Hutton, who works at Valley, and he said he also used Plymouth boys basketball coach Joel Grindle as a resource. Grindle is beginning his second season at Plymouth after a stint as the Valley assistant principal.
“He told me that he loved Valley, he loved the people, and he loved the school,” Sturtevant said of Grindle. “He would only leave that school system for one job, and it was to come back home and be the coach at Plymouth. He had nothing but positive things to say about the community and about the school, especially about the principal Brandon Kresca and the superintendent Blaine Conley. Everything was positive for him.”
He said he consulted athletic directors throughout the Northern Lakes Conference, including Michael Delp, the Plymouth AD who was his former boss. He realized he had a “passion” for the job but added that the job can be filled with “thankless’ tasks.
Sturtevant left Plymouth schools in third grade. He said there was nothing wrong with Plymouth. In fact, his sisters graduated from there. He said he wanted “something new.”
He was attending a private school in South Bend. That meant a long drive every day on Indiana 31 before the bypass had been built. After many of these drives, Sturtevant’s parents consulted with him about attending LaPorte LaLumiere, a boarding school.
He said the LaLumiere experience forced him to “grow up a little bit.”
“I was actually going to go to the (Culver) Academies, but some things changed, and I really didn’t want to do the military side of things, and my best friend from middle school was going to LaLumiere. The catch was my parents drove me 35 minutes to South Bend before the new 31 was built. So they were very selfless on that, and I’m very appreciative of that, but they couldn’t do the hour drive (to LaLumiere) plus the time change, so the caveat of me going to LaLumiere was I was going to have to live there and be a boarding student. And I think that was one of the best decisions I’ve made.”
Sturtevant said that LaLumiere was structured like a college. He praised the school for its emphasis on academics. There were mandatory study halls, and you had to turn your cell phone in during study hall. You also had to turn in your cell phone at night. There were 20 boys in his freshman dorm, sharing two bathrooms and two showers.
“It was a little bit of a shock for you, but I really grew up there, and I was able to prepare myself for the real world,” Sturtevant said.
Asked about his own prep athletic career, Sturtevant said he was passionate about soccer. He was also the manager of the boys basketball team, which was coached by former Culver Academy coach and current Creighton University assistant Alan Huss.
LaPorte LaLumiere, which is not affiliated with the IHSAA, plays a national schedule and has produced dozens of NCAA Division I players. Five current NBA players – veterans Jordan Poole, Jaren Jackson Jr.and Isaiah Stewart and first-round draft picks Jaden Ivey and Jeremy Sochan – played at LaPorte LaLumiere.
Being the manager at LaPorte LaLumiere meant trips with the team to New York, Texas, California and Florida, often spending Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks away from home.
“LaLumiere has a very storied basketball program, as a lot of people know,” Sturtevant said. “I was able to be the manager for that team for three years. I was 15, 16, 17 years old traveling around the country. I was exposing myself to that type of thing.”
His three years as the manager at LaPorte LaLumiere led to him becoming the manager on the men’s basketball team at Butler University. Sturtevant worked with 12 different managers at Butler and grew to become the head manager under coach LaVall Jordan.
“It’s kind of like an athletic director,” Sturtevant said of his job duties at Butler. “You wear a lot of hats. It’s a very thankless job. But luckily at Butler, the players, the coaches and the staff were extremely respectful of the managers.”
When he told the coaches he wanted to work in sports, he became more involved in the operations of the program. He got a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication while minoring in coaching and sports studies. His master’s is from Butler in business management.
He also had internship experience for the Indy Bandits, a now defunct semi-professional women’s basketball team; the Indiana Pacers; and the Memphis Grizzlies.
He helped with the “draft book” for the Pacers, a 200-page internal document full of information on any player the team might consider drafting. He even helped with some draft workouts.
With the Grizzlies, he worked in operations and helped as a liaison between the players and their families.
Then he moved back to Plymouth, got his master’s degree and got a job there. And now he has arrived at Valley. He’s spending mornings at Plymouth and afternoons at Valley this week as he makes the transition.
Part of the transition has included a meal at the Bull Dog Saloon in Mentone with Kresca.
Among his first tasks will be to fill the boys tennis coaching vacancy. He is also monitoring work being done on the auxiliary gym, pool and weight room.
“I want to get in there and meet with the coaches,” Sturtevant said. “I want to get in there and build those relationships. … I know that the community is extremely strong there.”
Sturtevant said he does not view his job as “authoritative.” While he said many of his previous job experiences in basketball might not directly relate to being a high school athletic director, he knows that those thankless tasks that he did with those jobs might be analogous to those tasks that are inherent with his new job.
“I’m there to support them,” Sturtevant said. “You need to be the leader, and you’re the face of Valley athletics, and I understand that. But at the end of the day, it’s about the kids and having them be successful in sports, academics and in life. And that’s my goal right now with them.”
Sturtevant married wife Kerianne, a former track and cross-country runner at Butler, on Aug. 7, 2021. She works as a speech pathologist at an elementary school within the John Glenn school system.
“I couldn’t do this without her support,” he said.