Keep Calm and Ride On by Linda Kasper

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Linda Kasper is the Director of Residential Life and Education at the University of South Florida. She is an endurance athlete, having completed two Ironman triathlons and rode her bicycle 3,500 miles across America. This year’s goal is to run at least one race a month —  either half-marathon or 5k distances. Her bucket-list includes a perimeter ride around the lower 48 states (help Linda convince her supervisor to give her 4-months off for this goal, please) :0)


About 8-years ago I started to evaluate my work-life balance. I was an assistant director of residence life at the University of Arizona, and at the time, I thought separation between work-life and personal life was something folks were supposed to do. As you progress in your career, professional distancing is something important to manage, as is allowing others to get to know you, as a leader in the department, on-campus, in your region, etc. I wanted to share my passions, my strengths, and my vulnerabilities as part of creating high functioning teams. I also wanted to create authentic opportunities for others to bring their true selves to the work place.

I had just completed a personal journey in reclaiming fitness in my life that culminated in completing my first century ride (100-miles on a bike). I was in shape and inspired to keep moving and progressing through physical challenges. I thought if I could do this, others could as well. I sent out an email to 200+ folks in our department seeking interest in joining a Residence Life Cycle Team. My pitch was that I would take the next 3-months training our group to complete the annual “Tour de Tucson,” a 109-mile bike ride around the city of Tucson. I promised no speed wins, but that we would learn about the sport of cycling and cross the finish line with smiles on our faces. You had to know basically how to ride a bike, but other than that, no experience was required. Six people joined.

Training was slow. Our first ride included bikes that hadn’t been out of the garage in years. There were rusty chains, styrofoam helmets, and one pedal that fell off a bike in the middle of the ride. We had many opportunities for impromptu tire changing clinics. We laughed a lot as we explored our city together by bicycle seat, and increased our Saturday morning ride distance by 5-miles each week. We all finished that race with smiles.

The cycling team continued for many seasons. Some wanted to break us into two teams, one for hard-core cyclists and one for new folks. I resisted this. I wanted to continue to inspire new cyclists, and build our connections with each other as we grew in numbers. Housing frequently has staff joining the department and momentum grew with the team. It started to be something I talked about during recruitment. I was good at coaching, and loved watching people exceed their expectations physically. Each season we started fresh, connecting socially with the new folks who joined. We revisited nutrition, hydration, clothing, and bike maintenance as a group each season – just like RAs revisit conduct, programming, and room condition reports each August; learning new approaches and getting new ideas each time. Veteran cyclists helped out new riders, we had people support us with SAG (support and gear) during long training rides. My last year at the University of Arizona I expanded our scope and we became the Student Affairs Cycle Team.

I continue to train staff at work to stay fit. At the University of South Florida many staff are right now exploring running, and in various stages of training for 5Ks. As they are finding ways to include fitness in their lives, we are meeting for lunches to check in and on Saturday mornings to run outside in different places around Tampa Bay. Running outside is a way to get to know your town and feed your soul as you run (vs solely running on treadmills to workout).

It inspires me to see former teammates now list “athlete” as a salient identity. I know that I played a role in that transformation. It started with me being willing to be vulnerable and share myself- my whole self – with those I work with. I no longer feel a need to have a clear delineation between my work identity and my personal life; I prefer to be a role model for merging the two. For me, balance is feeling a sense of fun, adventure and excitement and knowing that I am making contributions in all aspects of life.

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Alyssa Dunlap, Linda Kasper and Alyssa Bolante are all smiles at the finish line of the Clearwater Iron Girl, April 14, 2013.


3 comments to Keep Calm and Ride On by Linda Kasper

  • Monica Rochon  says:

    Kasper you certainly are a role model in more than one way. I can relate to not feeling the need to separate work identity/personal life and I appreciate that you brought that to light! I enjoyed reading–I will soon build up the courage to get on my bike for the first big ride. Thank you for sharing!

  • Kevin Cleary  says:

    You seriously rock. You inspired me to get off the couch in STAD and enjoy the beautiful Arizona weather! Shoot, I even bought a road bike because of you! I will certainly never do a triathlon (have to know how to swim), but my level of fitness has definitely increased because of your original inspiration. Thanks for teaching me about the wonders of cycling and fitness. 🙂 You rock.

  • Hannah Lozon  says:

    You are so amazing. I love your comments about vulnerability and bringing your whole self to work. Love you!

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