Not all leaders lead from the front, bark orders and rally followers to victory or success. They don’t all give rousing speeches, inspiring thousands while pushing people to new levels. Oftentimes, they stand among us, content with doing their job and letting others get the attention, praise and glory.
Chris Lindsay — the aquatics manager and athletic facilities coordinator for Godwin Hall — is an example of one of those quiet leaders.
“We do a lot of the behind-the-scenes things,” Lindsay said. “A lot of the things we do are before a match or game. I think, ‘Well, [the student athletes] don’t even know who I am,’ but then seeing them in the hallways, they stop and say thanks … hearing that from them is really cool.”
Born, raised and still living in Churchville, Virginia, Lindsay commutes a half-hour each way to work and spends countless hours perfecting Godwin Hall while raising two young children.
“Chris is that cool boss that everyone wants to have,” Alex Caplan, a student working under Lindsay, said. “He’s a fun guy who always has a funny story to tell, but he’s also trustworthy and caring. If I ever need to call him, I know he’s going to answer.”
Not only is Lindsay reliable and responsible, but he cares about the little things, and most importantly, people.
“He has a big heart,” Caplan said. “Last week, Chris gave a veteran directions. He thought the veteran wouldn’t know where to go, so we staked out the location and made sure the guy got where he needed to be.”
After serving as the aquatics manager for the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, Lindsay took a job at JMU, which has been a second home for him. Those who know Lindsay best — including students and co-workers — know he’s a perfect fit in the school’s welcoming culture and is completely committed to the success of others.
“Everybody [at JMU] is super friendly and willing to help,” Lindsay said. “Everybody here is on the same mission: to have the students as the No. 1 goal.”
In the past 10 years, Lindsay has had incredible experiences and an inside look at the growth of JMU athletics. He’s seen the rise of the JMU football program, including back-to-back national championship appearances in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
“I can remember the football stadium before the expansion,” Lindsay said. “[I’ve seen] the expansion [of] our facilities, the student-athletes grow and our programs step up. Knowing I had a hand in the success of the football program, that is really cool.”
Lindsay doesn’t want attention or recognition, but while he isn’t widely known, he’s appreciated and loved by those who know him best.
“He’s incredibly hardworking,” Dane Pedersen, JMU swimming and diving head coach, said. “He takes pride in what he does and is service-oriented. We probably take him for granted every day.”
Lindsay manages the Olympic-sized, 275,000-gallon pool in the 36-year-old Godwin Hall, a tough but necessary task. Balancing chemicals and maintaining a positive practice environment is essential to the success of the swimming and diving program, which won the CAA championship last weekend.
“A body of water this large in a building this old is really hard to maintain,” Pedersen said. “Without him, we don’t have a practice facility. Every day, it’s a nod to him that we’re able to train at the level we can.”
Upon receiving the nomination for The Breeze’s staff member of the year award, Lindsay says he was blown away.
“The communications department asked me about the nomination, and I said, ‘I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about. Are you sure you have the right Chris Lindsay?’”
This is the mindset of a man so humble, he doesn’t even realize how much he means to co-workers, athletes and the JMU community. He may not be recognizable, but he’s certainly not replaceable.
“It’s neat to know that I do have an impact and that people do see and appreciate the work I’m doing,” Lindsay said.
Few leaders change the world, but all leaders have a significant impact on the world in which they live. Chris Lindsay is no exception, and while he’ll never be a JMU celebrity, he’ll have a lasting impact on JMU athletic programs and those who know him best.
“What makes JMU so special is the people,” Pedersen said. “I’m glad an unsung hero [like Chris] is getting recognition.”
Contact James Faris at firstname.lastname@example.org.