The girls’ athletic director at Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove, Illinois, Jackie Randall is attempting to blaze a trail for female high school athletic directors. Noting that she doesn’t usually “see many people who look like me, with a spouse and children” in her role, she became involved with Women Leaders in College Sports with the mindset of increasing the presence of women in high-ranking positions within high school athletics. On top of her duties as girls’ athletic director and English teacher, Jackie also leads a Women Leader Circle Call for high school athletics administrators. We sat down with her to talk about her path, working in high school athletics and how to support other women in the industry.
Tell us about your current position and your career path.
I am the girls’ athletic director at Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove, Illinois. I also teach three periods of sophomore English at the high school. In my role as girls’ athletic director, I handle everything with regards to girls’ sports: scheduling, transportation, purchasing, hiring and mentoring coaches, student-athletes discipline, eligibility, and supervising the events themselves.
I was attracted to this profession because my dad coached high school basketball for 40-plus years and I was raised a gym rat. I loved being around that atmosphere, especially because so many of his teams were successful and made deep state runs. I was impacted by their success and the relationships he built with players and fellow coaches. I knew that if I got into education, I’d want to coach. When I became an English teacher, I also signed on for coaching track and field for both the boys and girls teams. After that season, I was promoted to the head girls’ track and field coach for eight years before getting an administration certificate. When the girls’ AD job presented itself, I threw my hat into the ring, and I got it. I love my job because I can stay in the classroom-building relationships with students - while still working with track and all other athletics. I felt like if I was going to move out of the classroom, this was a risk-free way to experience administration and I’ve been proven correct. This is a unique combination of being in the classroom while still being involved in a variety of athletics.
What makes high school athletics so unique?
The best thing about high school athletics is that they give an opportunity to everyone. At my school, there are a significant amount of teams that don’t cut so if you want to get involved, you can. We focus on giving every student-athlete a great athletic experience, regardless of skill level.
Working in high school athletics, I’ve become a jack of all trades. I’m doing a lot of different things that at the collegiate or professional level are handled by entire departments - compliance, academics, event management, etc. Because of that, my skill set has been bolstered. I know what’s going on in every aspect so if someone doesn’t show up, I can solve the problem.
As a mother of two, how do you blend your career in athletics with your role as a wife and mother?
The key to blending my role as a mother and my athletic career is to have a strong support system. My husband, parents, and in-laws are very supportive and help out all the time. If you don't have that support, you may have to hire it in order to make this type of profession work. I also have to give up certain things: a clean house, time for volunteering, and small piles of laundry. Additionally, I truly try to be present wherever I am: at work or at home. It is difficult because many times I am "on call" for work, but I try and limit those instances as much as possible. I also take days off. I go on field trips with my kids or volunteer for field day or just take a day to be. My me-time and self care is important to me. I build in time for my fitness at least four times a week as I see that it positively impacts my mindstate and all other elements of my life.
Talk about your involvement with Women Leaders in College Sports.
I became involved with the organization because I was looking for more support as a female athletic director. When I first started, I was trying to figure out what’s out there in terms of support for female high school athletic directors because nothing presented itself. I caught wind of Women Leaders and reached out. Women Leaders has been open and supportive bringing support to the high school level. The first step was facilitating a Circle Call - a conference call - for high school administrators. I also joined their mentoring program - I talk once a month with an assistant AD at a NAIA school - and I’m on their membership committee.
I’ve really reaped the benefits of becoming connected with women around the nation. I can’t believe how my network has blown up. Members of Women Leaders, women in sport at all levels, call me asking how they can help. My network of female high school athletic directors has also expanded. It’s amazing! The willingness of people in the organization to help me out is unprecedented in my professional career.
What are the best ways women can support other women in the industry?
I surround myself with women of the same mindset. I practice being open-minded and supportive of others. I try to balance pushing the envelope with not crossing the line to where I’m burning my bra and isolating myself and my views. With that comes being legitimate and really knowledgeable at your job. Personally, I focus on pushing to support and make a pathway for women, but also try to be excellent at my job so my actions speak louder than my words.