CoSIDA Director of External Affairs Barb Kowal asked that Katie Gwinn Hewitt (University of Michigan) and myself start sharing posts from our blog sparklesandsports.com on CoSIDA Connect. So please bear with me that I am sharing this the right way :)
This past fall, nearly two weeks apart, we made career
moves to the Division I level. Who was the person I turned to when I
needed advice on my decision to move on from the place that launched my
career? Katie. That brings me back to where we are now and why we are
creating sparklesandsports - to connect with other women and men in athletic communications, discussing networking, workplace issues, mentorship, work-life integration and all things personal and professional. We also have guest contributors who have penned some terrific posts. Our work is going to be on CoSIDA.com as well.
Thanks for reading!
A LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN
work in a male-dominated industry and often find it hard to manage a
work-life balance outside of the office. Although this post is focused
on females that work in athletic communications (sorry, that’s my area
of expertise!), it really crosses all platforms of working in the sports
sitting through two CoSIDA Convention panels that focused on the
work/life balance with having a family and lacked a single female
panelist, one thing was clear to me: we need a voice.
began doing my research and after a few good friends sent me
suggestions, I contacted one woman in all three NCAA divisions and one
from an NAIA institution.
Cornelius Edson is the Executive Senior Associate Athletics
Director/Chief Communications Officer at Syracuse University. She is a
mother of two, Thomas and Tracey, and after losing her husband suddenly a
few years ago has overcome obstacles of raising two teenagers while
working in athletics.
Bready King is the Sports Information Director at Sage College in New
York’s capital city area. She’s spent over 30 years in the
communications profession within Division III institutions. Ann’s
husband, Tracy, is the commissioner of the Liberty League and together
they have an 11-year-old son, Robert.
Potter has spent the last decade and then some at her alma mater,
Columbia College. A small NAIA school in Missouri. Cindy is the
Associate Director of Athletics for Media Relations and Compliance, and
with two toddlers at home, she has her hands full!
is Phylicia Short at Queens University in Charlotte, not too far from
where I currently am now. Phylicia had her first child, a little girl,
last year and as the head SID at a Division II school faced many
challenges the others have faced
spent nearly an hour on the phone with each of these ladies. Some a
little more (I’m looking at you, Ann!) Although each has a different
story and path to where they are now, I wanted to point out some
similarities. First, each of the four have worked for their alma mater
upon finishing their undergraduate degree, and three of the four still
began in the business working for the Delaware County Daily
Times before she met the late Mary Jo Haverback at the Association for
Women in Sports Media (AWSM). Haverback suggested she reach out to the
communications staff at Villanova for an informational interview and to
make connections. Haverback’s suggestion proved beneficial and before
Sue knew it in September 1990 Edson was hired at Syracuse as an
was a former women’s basketball player at Queens, while Cindy played
softball for Columbia College after transferring from Three Rivers
Ann worked at Drew where she graduated in 1986 for five years, but she has since moved on and is now at Sage College.
and Phylicia both met their husbands while in college. Sue met her late
husband while both were resident advisors at SU and spent one year
apart while Rob pursued his master’s degree at West Virginia University.
Phylicia met her husband, Bobby, who was a basketball player at another
school in Queens’ conference through a mutual friend.
Cindy put it, “If you don’t have anything to come home to, you tend to
throw everything into work.” How many of us can relate?
in 2008 I made a decision to either leave Colombia College and move
home to Winnipeg closer to family or buy a house and get a dog,” added
Potter. “So I bought a house and got a dog and suddenly had more of a
family life outside of work.”
Potter moved into her newly built house, her neighbors set her up on a
date. “We went bowling and I knew that night that this was the man I was
going to marry.”
I mentioned before, all four women have similar backgrounds, but Ann’s
story of how she met her husband is my favorite. Believe it or not, she
and Tracy met at ECACsida and then planned to meet up again at the
CoSIDA Convention in Atlanta a few weeks later. Anyone who knows me
knows that I often joke about this happening to me. Well, Ann is a
living success story of a CoSIDA romance!
I first met him he was at the Patriot League, and then Holy Cross,”
said Ann. “We made plans to see each other whether it was for dinner or a
short weekend. In 1995 he moved to New Jersey.”
Tracy first made the jump from SID to conference commissioner, there
was no league office, so he was able to stay at home and work from there
while taking care of their one-year-old son.
Which leads me into the next part.
most important thing each woman told me was having the support and
backing of their department’s administration when they wanted to start a
you have a support system in place beforehand, then go for it,” said
Phylicia. “Nobody raises a child completely on their own anyway.”
piggybacked off the strong support system as well. “There is no
blueprint for having a family and doing what we do,” she said. “I was
fortunate to have Rob because he worked in athletics, too, and
understood what I was thinking.”
administration was so supportive of us starting a family,” said Sue.
Who’s husband was a long time employee at Syracuse working in multiple
facets of the department during his tenure with the Orange.
their son Thomas went to Kindergarten, Sue changed her hours to 6:30
a.m.-3:30 p.m. allowing for her to pick him up from school. Rob would
drop him off in the morning and then be able to trade off with Sue if
she had to return to campus at night for a game.
said that until they asked their bosses to switch their hours, they
would have had to send Thomas to an after school program in which he
would have spent more time on a bus getting there than at the actual
program. “How many five-year-olds do you know that can sit on a bus for
45 minutes after a full day of school?” she joked.
husband works for FedEx Freight and works “12 p.m. to question mark,”
as she explained. “We both have crappy hours, but we made it work.
you love it, you will make time for it,” Cindy added. “Having kids was
never a burden on the lives we had, our kids just became a part of it.”
of becoming part of it, Cindy returned to work part-time just NINE days
after having her second child and six weeks after her first. After
getting to know her a bit, I think that six weeks would have been faster
but she had eye surgery during that time which played a big role in
delaying her return.
The Right Time
everyone agrees that there is never a “right time” to start a family.
Cindy’s husband is older than her and they didn’t wait long to have
learned quickly that I could never be a stay-at-home mom,” said Cindy.
“I suffer from FOMO, you know, fear of missing out?“ When I asked Cindy
about the timing of her due dates she said, “CJ was born in October and
that was horrible. Chase was born 17 months later in March which was
also horrible.” (Disclaimer: She meant being in your third trimester
during crossover is horrible, not having kids that far apart).
got pregnant with her daughter Dylan during a Division II SID’s busiest
time of the year. “I got pregnant in February during our spring
crossover season so my first trimester was very trying,” she explained.
was constantly working throughout her pregnancy, just as the others
did. “During my third trimester, we were hosting the DIII Women’s
Lacrosse National Championship and someone needed something from the TV
truck. I ran to get it.”
was pregnant and it was uncomfortable and I was sick every day even
when I was in labor,” recalled Ann. After multiple tries with her
husband and losing two babies during earlier pregnancies, it all worked
out for Ann who’s son arrived in July 2005.
think like Cindy, Ann also suffers from a little FOMO. She told me she
was in the hospital in labor and answered a phone call from the local
paper wanting to talk about a track All-American. Her husband had to
tell the guy it wasn’t a good time! Ha!
But as much FOMO as Ann may have, she put it all into perspective for me.
life, we think ‘I can’t miss this game or I can’t not be there for
that’ but the game will go on without you,” said Ann. “The box scores
might be wrong but you can fix it. For years I missed family events and
then one year I made the decision to skip a football game for a family
event. You have to learn to let it go.”
son, Thomas, has spent the last three summers as an intern in the
department at Syracuse. When I asked her if she thinks he will follow in
his parents footsteps, you could hear the excitement in her voice. “I
am really proud of him for wanting to pursue a profession in sports and
study it in college,” she said. “I sometimes worry that he wants to stay
in athletics because it’s the only thing he knows so I encourage him to
explore other options but I know this is his top interest and I am so
of work, Sue has been able to share incredible experiences with her
children like attending the Rose Bowl because her son is a big Oregon
fan or the Women’s Final Four in which her daughter Tracey flew home
with the team when she had to get back to work earlier and could only
stay one night.
thinks her son will work in IT. “During winter break my computer
crashed, he helped me back up all of my StatCrew files and saved it to
another computer because our university’s IT department was closed,” she
said. “He’s so smart and I just kept thinking, ‘Wow he’s 10 and backing
up StatCrew!’ ha-ha.”
Cindy and Phylicia’s kids are much younger so they haven’t begun to discuss career paths yet.
asked each woman for a final thought or word of advice, in which could
not be relative to our previous hour-long phone call. This is what they
had to say.
time you get overwhelmed with work can you put yourself in someone
shoes and still be able to do what you do?” said Cindy. “I went into
college thinking I wanted to be a teacher. Well, it’s 14 years later and
I can’t see myself doing anything else, especially not teaching in a
advice was about establishing oneself and developing a professional
network. “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Ask a question and
send them an e-mail.” She touched on sitting with total strangers during
lunch at convention and reaching out to people no matter where they
of my favorite things she said to me was “I don’t consider a work trip
successful if you cant find five people at the end of the week that you
can pick up the phone and ask them something, whether it be personal or
professional.” (YES TO ALL OF THIS ANN!)
said to me “When we started planning a family with my husband I kept
thinking to myself ‘when am I going to have time to do this’, you can’t
think like that. You just need to jump in and do it.” The toughest part
of balancing her job and family is those long days when she gets home
after Dylan is already sleeping. “It’s all worth it, it’s not easy but I
love my daughter.”
was Sue’s email she sent me later at night long after we hung up the
phone. She thanked me for being taking a leadership role. I laughed at
this because I’m 25 years old and most days have not a clue what I’m
she said she was thinking further about the final topic we discussed,
which was how she managed to balance her family and work after the
sudden death of her husband. It all circled back to having an incredible
support system both personally and professionally. As someone who was
raised by a single mom from a young age when my dad passed away from
cancer, I felt for Sue so much.
Here’s what she said…
love and support from every area of our lives – family, friends, our
community and colleagues – has helped me, Thomas and Tracey to get
through the past two and a half years. The incredible amount of love and
support immediately after Rob passed away was and still is amazing. The
support came from every direction – from our families, friends, the
Syracuse community, former student assistants and athletics department
staff traveling to Syracuse to be with us in the days and weeks
following, friends and colleagues in the profession coming from all over
the country to pay their respects and to offer their support,
administrators, leaders and staffs of both Syracuse University and
Onondaga Community College, the many student-athletes (past and present
from both Syracuse and OCC), teachers and staff in the Jamesville-Dewitt
School District, and members of the media. We sincerely appreciate each
and every person and every gesture of support.”
With all of that being said, I leave you all with my final thoughts.
YOU to Sue, Ann, Cindy and Phylicia for taking time out of their day to
speak to me about some personal information for this blog. I hope to
have told your stories the best I could without leaving out too much.
Each of you are inspiring and hard working women in this field who
manage motherhood at the same time.
I set out to write this post I had no idea where it would take me.
Well, a few new female mentors later, I find myself thinking about a
future as a mom and for those of you that know me personally know that a
month ago you couldn’t pay me all the money in the world to say that,
let alone think it!
thank you to Chris Yandle for stepping up and being my editor for this
post. It was a lot to read and I am thankful for your friendship and