Head men’s and women’s rowing coach Adrian Spracklen is the model of athletic success at Mercyhurst College.
Spracklen is the only coach at Mercyhurst to win an NCAA National Championship.
He coached the women’s rowing team to the 2004 NCAA Division II National Championship.
Spracklen, however, did have to grow to fully accept this role as head coach and to embrace the shadow that his father casts over him.
Spracklen’s father, Mike Spracklen, is the Canadian National Rowing Team coach and has won multiple gold and silver medals at the Olympics.
Spracklen, a native of Marlow, England, graduated from Mercyhurst in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine and went on to get his master’s at Western Michigan University.
Spracklen came back to Mercyhurst in 1992 as an athletic trainer, and rowing coach.
The split title spoke volumes about the reserve that Spracklen was having about his decision.
“I came to Mercyhurst with a split title as coach/athletic trainer and much of that had to deal with this monster I had created in regards to my father,” Spracklen said.
“When people hear my name, they automatically think of my father and think I might be good because he is good, and it is hard trying to be as good as the best,” Spracklen said.
With the first few seasons of coaching under his belt, “I began to lose the fear of the name when the success began to come,” Spracklen said. “With that, I began to loosen up a little.”
The shadow his father casts over him was not the only problem Spracklen had to deal with when he first came to Mercyhurst as a coach.
When Spracklen first came to Mercyhurst, the program was vastly different from the way things are now.
“When I was rowing here we had a lot of talent, but it never materialized, and there was a lot of turnover in terms of coaches,” Spracklen said.
“When I first came in, I really changed the culture and really began to focus the team. Consequently, one-third of the team quit that year,” Spracklen said.
He felt he weeded out the rowers who weren’t serious about rowing.
“I felt we just lost the ‘country club’ rowers, and those who really wanted to row stuck around and got better,” Spracklen said.
The emphasis on focus and a winning attitude has been a staple of Spracklen’s during his tenure at Mercyhurst.
“Right now we have a list of traits of a champion posted on the wall in the rowing room, and each rower is to memorize those,” Spracklen said.
“We focus on one trait each week and it helps to keep the mental focus,” Spracklen said.
The approach has seemingly worked for both teams this year.
“The teams have been performing really well. The level of focus and the competition on both teams has been very high. They have really taken the high expectations seriously,” Spracklen said.
Spracklen has also reached new heights this year, as he was named to the Canadian National Rowing Team’s coaching staff.
“It is an honor to help my dad coach one of his teams. This has come up before, but it has just never worked out. It may be my dad’s last Olympics, so it’s a real honor to work with him,” Spracklen said.
Despite the growing respect and interest for Spracklen in the rowing world, he remains committed to Mercyhurst.
“I believe in Mercyhurst. When I came to Mercyhurst from England, I struggled with my academics, but they worked with me. Also, my wife’s family lives in Akron, and it is important to me for my kids to be able to see their family,” Spracklen said.
Spracklen does not rule out ever leaving, though.
“I would really have to sit down and think about it if a job like my dad’s came around. I feel that I still have a lot to accomplish here, but when I accomplish everything I set out to accomplish here, it would be time to go,” Spracklen said.
Do not look for that moment to come for a long time. Spracklen is still searching for another national championship and better facilities for his team, but with a man with determination like Spracklen, this may not take that long.