Women in and around college and professional sports gathered in Augusta on Thursday for the 10th annual Women in Athletics Seminar.
Hosted by the Peach Belt Conference, the seminar featured a panel of coaches, administrators and staff from across the NCAA. The seminar gives advice and networking opportunities for current female student-athletes as they being their post-collegiate careers.
Armani Dawkins, the senior associate athletic director and chief of staff at the University of Oklahoma, was one of the panelists. A former soccer player at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Dawkins believes the skills of a student-athlete translate into success in their post-collegiate careers.
“The things you learn working in a team – pursuing excellence at all levels, academically, athletically, working with people from diverse backgrounds, ethnicity, geographically, international students, different gender identities – it teaches you so much at an early age that I believe student-athletes in those four or five years at colleges and universities have a leg up on their peers,” Dawkins said. “Whether it be time management, multi-tasking, competitiveness or working in a team environment to achieve goals, I will always wave the flag and beat the drum for hiring student-athletes in your business.”
One of the aspects that gets overlooked in any field is the importance of self care. Dawkins and the rest of the panel discussed the idea that being available every hour of the day can deteriorate one’s mental health. They stressed the importance of setting aside time for the individual and how that can help one’s performance while on the job.
“Right now, more than ever, there’s been a lot of focus on breaking down the stigma that surrounds mental health for our student athletes and also our staff,” she said. “In college athletics it is 24-7-365, there is no ‘off-season.’ And just the importance of taking care of yourself so you can serve others, you can’t show up for your student-athletes, your coaches and your athletic director if you’re drained and not firing on all cylinders. Hopefully as the years pass and we continue to break down some of those stigmas about it’s not showing weakness to take time away and take care of yourself.”
Nicole Sherry was the event’s keynote speaker. She is about to enter her 13th season as head groundskeeper at Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles. Sherry is one of only two women to hold the position of head groundskeeper across Major League Baseball.
Because of the exposure of her position, Sherry believes it can open doors for girls to pursue careers that were previously not thought of in male-dominated fields.
“Being out on the field where potentially the entire nation can see you at certain points of the day, the 48,000 people in the stands can see you and it brings awareness that women can do a job like groundskeeping, where it was traditionally a male-dominated field, or we just really never gave it much thought because that’s all we saw was men in that industry,” Sherry said.
Although women have made great strides in the sports industry, they still face superfluous levels of scrutiny as opposed to their male counterparts.
Dawkins believes a path to remedy this begins from the top down.
“I think we’ve come a long way, but still a long way to go,” Dawkins said. “I think as you see more women take commissioner roles and athletic director roles, then starting to peel back some of those layers. If you have women as part of your leadership team, do they have a seat at the table but also do they have decision-making power? As we continue to progress, a lot of it is just educating yourself. If you’ve never had a woman in a leadership role then how do you know how to work with women? Breaking some of those stereotypes down and realizing the importance of the diversity that women bring to your institution really starts at the top.”