Parents take their children to the fields, courts and rinks seemingly from the time the kids can walk. A grandfather or aunt might come to see a granddaughter or nephew play, and many young boys and girls grow up learning the intricacies of the games from parents who may have competed in the same sport. It is not uncommon to see many players at the professional level who have had fathers or grandfathers compete before them.The bonds sports forge among families can be seen at Southern New Hampshire University as well. Every game sees the stands full of parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles cheering on the Penmen. In many sports, families of team members will gather postgame for a bite to eat and to share stories, and many families from different parts of the country remain friends long after their SNHU athletics experience.
A handful of current SNHU student-athletes are following in family footsteps, playing the same sport their parents or grandparents competed in as Penmen a generation or two ago. Meet three of them.
Bobby Bryant first caught the eye of SNHU hockey coach Ken Hutchins ’87 at a practice for Bryant’s junior team, the New England Huskies, in the fall of 2006. Only later did he learn that Bryant’s father, Bob Bryant ’83, also attended SNHU, and skated for the Penmen from 1979-83.
“Hutch remembered my father because they attended SNHU close to the same time and knew a lot of the same alumni hockey players,” Bobby said. “My father was very excited when I told him Hutch was recruiting me. He never really put any pressure on me to choose SNHU, but he was very excited when I told him it was my final choice. It was definitely a bonus to have that history with the school and the program.
“My mother (Jill Freire ’84) was excited that I was going to be close to home and that she could come watch me play. I think she expected me to go to school as far away as possible,” he added.
Like father, like son: The elder Bryant led the Penmen to a 16-8 record as a senior. The younger Bryant led the team in assists as a sophomore with 20 and has totaled 51 points through his first three seasons.
Bob can be seen at most of SNHU’s home games, watching his son play.
“I visited different schools with Bobby, but left the decision up to him,” he said. “I was happy he chose SNHU, as I believe there have been a lot of improvements since I went there – new classrooms and living facilities, better course choices, and not having to ride the ’little blue bus’ to games.” chose the university on its own merits.
“It was a small influence, but there were many other reasons I chose SNHU,” he said. “I liked the size of the campus and the reputation of the business program as well as the challenge of coming in and competing for the hockey team.”
Eric Gunst had plenty of exposure to the Penmen program growing up. His father, Lee Gunst ’83, was one of the early standouts for the lacrosse program, earning team MVP honors three times, and being selected for the prestigious North-South All-Star Game as a senior in 1983. (His mother, Andrea (Deasy) Gunst ’81, also attended SNHU.)
“(My father) didn’t talk about his career a whole lot growing up, just his love for the sport of lacrosse, and how he wanted to play in college,” Eric said. “That was one of the main reasons I looked into the school, just from hearing about it. That was the deciding factor in coming here.”
Lee was his son’s lacrosse team’s travel coach in junior high, and would take Eric and his brother, Matt, to high school and Penmen games.
“I’d been around campus a little bit, been in Robert Frost and seen some of the new buildings, and it became like a second home to me almost. Coach (Paul) Calkins came and watched me play and invited me to a recruiting trip. I got to meet all of the kids on the team, and I knew I wanted to be here,” Eric said.
Lee was a standout defenseman, as is Eric, who plays in goal and ranked seventh in the Northeast-10 as a freshman in save percentage. Both focused on business: Eric is majoring in sport management, while his dad graduated with a marketing degree. They even lived in the same on-campus apartment in Whittier, overlooking Larkin Field.
“We used to go to many high school and college games, and he chose the position (goalie) on his own. He fell in love with it; he decided the position looks like a lot of fun, you don’t have to run a lot,” Lee said, laughing. “Andrea and I offered Eric advice. We told him about how we both went here and had a great experience. However, we didn’t lead him down that road. After visiting six or seven different schools, it was all his decision. However, when he did make the decision to attend SNHU, we were very excited.”
While they didn’t talk about his Penmen lacrosse career while Eric was growing up, he and his father have talked about how the school has changed.
“My father was happy that I would be starting out where he started out,” he said. “Hopefully I get to be to where he is today. Hopefully I can be as successful as he is.”
Libby Cullerot is a member of the third generation of athletic Cullerots to attend SNHU. Her grandfather, Norm Cullerot ’59, played basketball here, while her father, Ken Cullerot ’86, a swimmer and a member of a New England championship Catholic Youth Organization team in basketball earned his M.B.A. here. Today, Libby is a junior on the women’s basketball team.
“They were always positive and encouraging,” said Libby, who was averaging 6.6 points per game in 2009-10 before being sidelined with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
After spending a year at Saint Anselm, her grandfather attended what was then called the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Secretarial Science from 1957-59. Ken earned his M.B.A. here. Libby is on track to graduate with a sport management degree in 2011.
“My father loved going to grad school at SNHU,” Libby said. “It was definitely a factor when I was looking at schools.”
Norm, who took classes at night while working for Public Service Company of New Hampshire, recalled that the basketball teams he played for were a far cry from today’s Penmen teams.
“We were certainly in the primitive stages. I think (then-coach and eventual President Eddie Shapiro) developed a team to generate some interest in the school and increase the enrollment,” he said. “We had about a 10- or 12-game schedule, mostly down in Massachusetts when we weren’t at home. I would say half the players were night school students like I was; we’d get together on certain days when we could.”
The school, then located in downtown Manchester above Palace Fruit on Hanover Street, did not have athletic facilities, so the team played at a gym at Grenier Air Force Base in Manchester (now Manchester-Boston Regional Airport). Ironically, Norm would later be stationed at Grenier and play for the Air Force team in the same gym.
Libby’s family feels she made the right decision about where to attend college.
“We’re so proud of Libby, not only because of what she’s achieved on the basketball court, but what she’s done academically,” Norm said. “For selfish reasons, it was a great decision, because it allows us to go to more games than if she had gone away.”