Athletic Director Jason Baseden witnessed the most significant student transformation of his career last year.
“No one was talking about this student as a standout athlete,” said Baseden. “You could see that he had grit and talent, but it wasn’t apparent due to his physical makeup. I watched him transform into one of the best student-athletes I’ve ever seen.”
Baseden, now in his fourth year as Peddie’s athletic director, said that one of the most rewarding aspects of his job is finding the student who is “a surprise.”
“Each season almost every coach tells me about one or two or three students who have had unbelievable growth, a newfound level of confidence through their participation in Peddie athletics. That’s something I really look forward to,” he said.
Baseden can boast several big wins in his first three years overseeing Peddie’s athletic program.
The Falcons have won (or tied) Peddie-Blair Day every year that Baseden has been at Peddie, and the percentage of students who have gone on to play at the college level has increased.
“Athletics have opened doors for a minimum of 25 percent of our graduates to compete in college these last two years,” said Baseden.
Baseden also cited the success of Peddie’s football program. “We went from a team that had to forfeit a game because we didn’t have enough healthy players to winning the league last year,” he said.
Equally crucial to Baseden are the relationships he’s built with students, coaches and faculty and staff. He’s especially proud of the relationship between athletics and other departments.
“We can’t have an athletic culture that is out of line with the academic or arts culture,” he stressed.
“For example, I have a really good relationship with the chair of the arts department,” he added. “Alan Michaels is somebody that I admire greatly.”
Michaels described a “tone of singularity” that Baseden has created between athletics, academics and the arts. “Jason understands that Peddie students thrive in a holistic environment,” said Michaels.
Facility and Program Upgrades
When Baseden first arrived at Peddie, he prioritized the tennis courts and basketball court as needing immediate facility upgrades.
“We’ve been fortunate through the support of the Peddie Fund and individuals like Ian Graham ’50 to be able to renovate the tennis courts and put up some graphics in our display area and the entrance ways to the locker room. And, the big thing is finally happening … wood floors on our basketball court!”
This year Baseden is focused on adding a mindfulness component to the athletic program. He hopes to introduce activities like tai chi, martial arts, yoga and meditation.
“Other than competing and getting out and running and sweating, these are some of the other things students can do to help enhance their mental wellness,” he said.
Long-term, Baseden has his eye on other renovations to create more flexible indoor spaces for physical activities. He’s interested in adding a squash and fencing program and would like to move some of the games that take place on the back fields to a more central location.
Amidst plans for facility and program enhancements, Baseden has not lost sight of what’s working well for Peddie Athletics.
“Our facilities stand out compared to a lot of schools. Our weight room is one of the best in the country. Our athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coach are the best in the business. We have outstanding coaches who care about more than wins and losses. They care about educating our students. From the top down we have a school that believes in athletics,” he said.