I want to start off my post by saying a few things:
1. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have met the two women who are behind this website. Katie and Olivia are two people in this line of work I have immense respect for professionally, and they also happen to be great friends.
2. I would have never considered myself a “feminist” until I looked up the definition. According to the Oxford English Dictionary definition though, I am.
Ultimately what I believe in is equality. And leadership. To me, the most important aspect of what we do as collegiate athletic employees is lead (but to be fair, it is what my Master’s degree is in so maybe I find it more important than others). I have still yet to find any evidence that only men can be leaders. In my professional life (approximately five years now) I have worked for two amazing leaders, and they have both been women.
The first athletic director I ever worked for was Carolyn Stone at Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA). She started at PBA just about six months before I was hired in 2012, and since then the small, NCAA DII Independent school has turned into something special. In three years the athletics programs went from feeling lucky to make a regional appearance (with only two in the first six years of DII), to having at least one sport make it in each of the past three years and hosting two South Regional Championships in 2015. They’re in the final process of joining the Sunshine State Conference, something the school has been trying to do (and failing at) since 2007. AND they have one of the nicest outdoor facilities in all of South Florida. I’m confident in saying none of it happens at the pace it has happened without Carolyn.
Oh, she also has a husband and two sons who are in high school. She doesn’t miss a football game, debate match (not sure if that’s the proper term or not), or piano recital, and also is somehow at the majority of PBA events and taking care of athletic director duties.
*Fun fact, Carolyn was also on the committee that hired NCAA Executive Vice President Oliver Luck. The committee included David Berst (NCAA), Gene Smith (Ohio State), Jeremy Foley (Florida), Tom Jurich (Louisville), Greg Byrne (Arizona) and John Cochrane (Cornell College). Three women were on the committee, Carolyn Schlie (Patriot League) and Lynn Hickey (UT San Antonio). So yeah, she’s kind of a big deal.*
We were all family at PBA, and maybe that’s why I miss it as much as I do. Carolyn and I would be the first people in the office every day (her before me, always), and she would take time every day to make sure I was doing well. Sometimes she would share her frustrations about feeling she was in a boys’ club at times, but not once did anyone in the athletic department see her position as one of two female athletic directors in the SSC as a weakness for Palm Beach Atlantic. If you ask anyone who worked for her, the last adjective they’d describe her as is weak. (This is a woman who does triathlons and while bike training, ran over a squirrel. Sounds kind of funny, but that rodent made her crash. She was still at work before everyone else after that gnarly wipeout).
When I left Palm Beach Atlantic for the University of Dayton the leadership I was being nurtured under didn’t fall off. Being a larger school and athletic department, I don’t work directly with my AD like I did Carolyn at PBA. My new boss, Krystal Warren, carries the torch of leadership.
I wasn’t sure what to expect moving into a Division I department with the renown of Dayton, but every step along the way has been aided by Krystal. I’ve had missteps at times (it has been quite the adjustment!), but Krystal’s leadership has helped me get to a point that I’m confident in all aspects of what I’m doing. She’s worked her way up from a single operation at an NAIA school to the Assistant Athletic Director for Athletics Communication at a strong and nationally-recognized program at Dayton.
I’m fortunate to have worked under these two amazing leaders to start my career, and I still have a lot to learn. I’m proud to be friends with other women who are taking college athletics by storm like Katie and Olivia (and one of my coworkers here at UD, Jenna Willhoit, but don’t tell her I said that). They set the bar extremely high for everyone else (male or female) as I move forward.
Leadership isn’t reflected in age, race, or gender. It’s reflected by the difference made in the lives around us. All of these women have made a difference in my life, and I’m looking forward to them making a difference in yours too.
-Kyler Ludlow (@brdcstrkll)