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Matthew LaBranche Aims to Expand Opportunities For Female Student-Athletes As Athletic Director

By Emily McGuinness '20 WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, 2019 - 12:00 PM WNE100

Matthew LaBranche, the current Athletic Director of Western New England University, is no stranger to intercollegiate athletics and has big hopes for the future of the athletic program. LaBranche began his history at WNE in 2000 as the Head Coach of the baseball team. He was also the Coordinator of Physical Education for six years, instructed health and physical education, and was instrumental in developing the coaching minor offered for undergraduate students still today.

“Western New England Athletics was a sleeping giant when I became head coach. The potential of this school really attracted me” said LaBranche. “It was exciting to be a part of the rapid growth of the entire athletic department.”

LaBranche was head coach for fourteen years before following a new opportunity to coach at Eastern Connecticut State University from 2014-2018 before returning to Western New England in his new role as the Director of Athletics, Recreational Sport and Physical Education. LaBranche reflected on his time spent outside of Western New England saying that it definitely gave him a different perspective on Division III athletics and University life.
“My time at Eastern Connecticut was valuable. It gave me an opportunity to see how another University and athletic department operated. Getting a different perspective definitely helped me shape my personal philosophy of how an effective division three athletic department should operate.” LaBranche said.

Stepping outside of his original professional home for five years gave LaBranche a fresh outlook on how he wanted to narrow his career. Coming back as the Athletic Director has challenged LaBranche professionally in a place that he feels comfortable in and cares about. “I’m excited to have this opportunity to be the leader of the next stage of development in this athletic department” he said.

Since being selected in July of 2018, LaBranche has already made a plethora of changes and hopes to make even more in the years to come. In 2020, Athletics will add women’s ice hockey as the department’s twentieth sport. This is a key initiative of LaBranche’s long term plan to expand opportunities for female student-athletes in particular.

“Women athletes have historically been under-represented on our campus and I want to make it more attractive and accessible for females to compete at this school. The ice hockey team will balance the scales in terms of number of sport offerings for males and females but there is still work to be done in terms of achieving proportionality” LaBranche stated reassuringly.

Matthew has also negotiated a single vendor apparel contract with Metro Team Sports that will see all of our teams representing the Adidas brand. This relationship provides important financial benefit and is consistent with LaBranche’s vision to create consistency in how the WNE Athletics brand is utilized.

Under his management, LaBranche has also found ways to strengthen the athletic leadership group. His commitment to athletics as a co-curricular endeavor led him to create and appoint an Assistant Athletic Director for Student Development. An administrator that will spearhead all of the department’s service learning and leadership development opportunities as well as liaison with academic support services on specific student-athlete academic development strategies.

LaBranche commented on his developments by saying there are still many goals he’d like to accomplish during his tenure. “I want to continue to add more opportunities for women to compete in athletics, a department licensing agreement would be the next logical step now that a single apparel contract is in place and I want to continue to develop our athletic facilities. By transitioning our outdoor spaces to lighted artificial surfaces we will not only make our athletic department leading edge but we will be able improve recreational offerings that serve the entire campus community. Furthermore, those spaces could open new revenue streams to the University through rentals.” he said.

LaBranche’s plans for the future of WNE athletics are extremely positive and ambitious. They will enhance the University even more so, and there’s definitely something to be said about these wonderful adjustments coming from someone who has been involved in the school for so many years.

As he pushes further ahead, LaBranche is supported by his family. His wife, Judi, who herself is a former employee at Western New England as well as his two children. His son Matt recently completed a college soccer career and will be graduating in the spring. His daughter Dominique, a junior in high school, has aspirations of law school and is considering becoming a Golden Bear herself.

Western New England’s Athletic Department is in very good hands. With the combination of his personal and professional drive, and the mere history that LaBranche has with Western New England, there’s no doubt that his years spent as the Athletic Director will be quite impressive and accommodating.