A recent post on a SID group on Facebook inspired me for this post. Someone mentioned leaving the business for a new career and it got me to thinking -- not only if I left what I would do, but whether or not anyone has left and come back. I reached out on the message thread and was connected with Sheila Blackman. Sheila is the new Director of Media Relations for the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA).
Sheila took some time out of her day last week to talk to me about her journey through college athletics and how she ended up where she is now.
A former women’s soccer player at UW-Green Bay in the mid-90’s, Sheila also worked in the sports information department. As a sophomore she began working basketball games and also had a love for writing. Upon graduation, a full-time position was created in which Sheila would spend the next 11 years as the assistant director of athletic communications. She covered the nationally-ranked women’s basketball team and worked with nine other of UW-Green Bay’s 16 sports.
She then spent four years at Kent State where she was the primary contact for women’s golf, women’s basketball, soccer, gymnastics and track & field. At the time, her husband had a really good job in Detroit so he would come home to Kent on weekends.
“We had a lot of student babysitters during that time,” said Sheila. It was hard to be alone during the week with her young kids but she had a good support system at work that made it possible. When the separation of her family became too much, she packed up and moved to Michigan. She worked part time at Oakland University but when a full-time gig didn’t come to fruition, Sheila took a job as a personal banker in the private sector.
“I didn’t get out of it what I had hoped I would,” said Sheila.
Then this summer, the opportunity to work at the MIAA conference office came along. Sheila accepted the position and began work mid-summer. With the MIAA having no conference office, Sheila has the ability to work from home and be with her family.
“It promises me more flexibility, but the demands are different.”
Most of her work is done at night, when she is reporting scores on the league website and updating stats. Working for a league its more waiting for events to finish than in-game and pregame work.
When I asked Sheila if she would ever consider working at a school again, she said she wouldn’t rule it out. She definitely misses working with coaches and student-athletes more directly.
Her advice before we got off the phone; “Not every opportunity can be built off of a previous one, but it can build on your future.”