Patriot League Success Stories - Where Are They Now?

Joe Novak, Army, '99

Aug. 4, 2008

Patriot League Success Stories - Where Are They Now? will feature former Patriot League student-athletes, highlighting both their accomplishments while competing at the Division I collegiate level and their successes since graduation. The Patriot League embodies the scholar-athlete model in all its intercollegiate participants and is proud of the strides made both in the classroom and in competition. The League applauds the accomplishments of its former student-athletes and celebrates their life long achievements. The following features truly embrace the League's slogan - Today's Scholar-Athletes, Tomorrow's Leaders.

Many of the featured athletes were named either Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Player of the Year or Tournament Most Valuable Player in their respective sport. The accomplishments of the former student-athlete THEN and NOW will be highlighted.

Name: Joe Novak
Institution: U.S. Military Academy (Army)
Sport: Men's Swimming and Diving
Graduation Year: 1999
Undergraduate Major: Environmental Science


  • Named Patriot League Swimmer of the Meet three times (1997, 98 and 99) as the only student-athlete in League history to be honored with that award three times
  • Three-time First-Team All-Patriot League honoree (1997, 98 and 99)
  • Earned nine gold medals in Patriot League Championship competition winning the 50-freestyle, 100-freestyle and 100-fly in 1997, 98 and 99
  • Undefeated in Patriot League competition sophomore, junior, and senior years
  • Member of the Patriot League Men's Swimming and Diving All-Decade Team
  • Awarded the Army Athletic Association (AAA) trophy - West Point's highest athletic award given to one male and female each graduating class
  • Current Army record holder in the 50-freestyle, 100-freestyle and 100-fly
  • Patriot League overall record holder in the 100-fly


  • Infantry Platoon Leader in the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom
  • Awarded "Most Lethal Platoon" during operations in support of Enduring Freedom
  • Trained for the 2004 Olympic Trials in the Army World Class Athlete Program
  • Head Coach of the Cheyenne Mountain Aquatic Swim Team in Colorado Springs
  • Married with two kids

Thoughts on how your competitive experience as a Patriot League student-athlete helped you achieve professional or personal goals:

My competitive experience in the Patriot League plays such an important role in all of the success I enjoy today. The four biggest lessons I took from my experience were:

1) I learned that success comes more easily when you are doing something you love. No one ever had to force me to come to practice. The enjoyment I got from of swimming made focusing and working on the little things a natural part of every practice - which I believe was the difference between me and other student athletes who were more talented. When deciding on a career after the Army and competitive swimming - I was able to have confidence that success would follow my decision to do something I was passionate about.

2) Success doesn't happen overnight. I learned that what I did in September impacts what happens in March. Sometimes the results took a year or more. Far too often we tend to look for instant gratification. I was able to be patient and understand that nothing great happens without sacrifice, hard work, and most all patience - a lesson that continues to pay dividends in my life today.

3) Character Matters - swimming can be a very individual sport, but ultimately a team of people is required for great success. I was blessed to have the support of Ray Bosse and the coaching of Terry Laughlin. Without either, things would have turned out much differently. Everything in life comes down to people and relationships. Character is a necessary ingredient to long term success in relationships.

4) Goals need to be big and clear. My freshman year at West Point I didn't make a single final at the Patriot League Championships, I didn't win a single race at a dual meet, and wasn't even fast enough to be a part of any of Army's "A" relays. If I would have told someone that my goal was to finish my final three years never losing a race to a Patriot League competitor, be the only swimmer to ever be named "Swimmer of the Meet" for three consecutive years, and qualify for the Olympic trials in three events they would have probably started laughing. However, it was this mindset that enabled me to achieve extraordinary results.

Additionally the difficult academic standards at West Point forced me to be efficient with my time and prioritize everything. Today my goals are big and my time constraints are many. Being a student-athlete in the Patriot League prepared me for the road ahead.