Sports as a Way of Life
Sport has always been part of my life. Ever since I was little I was swimming, but I kind of did whatever. Sports were always around. What I love about sport is this kind of insatiable drive to get better. We’re always trying to get better, we’re always trying to beat our time, we’re always trying to be the best team, always trying to get better every day. I just have this insatiable desire to be better tomorrow than I am today and that’s why I fell in love with Division One sport because that’s getting better at the highest level.
Although I did really enjoy coaching at Division three—we won a conference championship and it was so much fun. I always thought I would go back there. I loved the commitment to academics that was a part of Division Three sports. I loved how you can do it all, athletics and academics in this combined desire to be better intellectually and physically. In Division One sports, there is often an imbalance. Everyone is focused on how to be your best physically and, don’t forget to go to school. That part was really problematic for me, from a values perspective. My personal values are actually a perfect fit for Drake. At Drake, the insatiable desire to get better is on the intellectual side too. Here, we can do both at the Division one level, and we can do it with integrity.
Education and sports have always been two things that have kept me going.
When I was a kid, those were the two things that got me what I thought was love and attention at the time. Swimming and good grades kept me going as a child and when I got a bit lost in college, I turned to swimming again. At that point, I had stopped swimming for about three years, but I was actually taking swimming as an activity credit because I thought it would be a blow-off class. I started working for the pool because I loved being there, which led me to an opportunity through the School of Education as a teaching assistant. Originally, as I graduated with my degree in business administration I had no intention of ever going into a career with athletics. I figured I would be some big time sales person or something but as I got closer to graduation, I wasn’t enamored by that at all. Luckily, I had this relationship with the pool and School of Education, which actually hired me and then paid for me to attend graduate school. Again sports, specifically getting re-involved in swimming, got me involved in coaching and eventually athletic administration, keeping my life on track.
As part of my studies in graduate school, I took a class in athletic administration and found out I could put my two passions together. Administration comes natural to me and I could put that together with what I love in sports. That’s when I first realized I could even make a career in athletic administration. But I really loved coaching, so I started age group swimming coaching. And then I realized I really like working with college age students. So I took a job as a Division three swimming coach in Virginia at Washington and Lee University. After working at Washington and Lee, I went to Arizona State for what I thought was a two year internship and then I planned to go back to division three where I could coach, teach and be an administrator. But, like I have learned, life does not always go as planned and I ended up staying at Arizona State for sixteen years until I was recruited to Drake. I loved working with student athletes and I do miss coaching students. However, I view my current job as an opportunity to coach: it is my job to coach and help our staff. Although challenging, working with everyone is also very rewarding.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without all the role models and people who have helped me throughout my life that I have gained from my involvement in sports. I’ve had unbelievable athletic directors that I’ve worked for that have been great mentors. Specifically, the athletic directors at Ohio State and Duke, as well as Kerry G., who was a female athletic director at the University of Nevada Reno and an amazing role model and mentor of mine. I look up to a number of individuals in my career and I often model myself after the people that I think are really cool and that I want to embody. For instance, the C.E.O. of NACWAAS, the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators, is somebody I love being around and want to be more like. I love spending time with these people and learning from them because it doesn’t matter who they are—everybody’s got something to teach you.
Although I had these amazing role models, some people like Nancy Kent, my grandmother and Dr. Chism fundamentally changed my life. They changed the entire trajectory of my life.
Without them helping me at those critical points, who knows where I’d be. I would probably be dead.