Daemen AD Traci Murphy reflects on her career

Traci Murphy’s path to Daemen athletic chair is a typical one, starting out as a student-athlete — a swimmer at West Chester. He is unique because his professional career began in the athletic training room.

Both experiences, Murphy says, would not have been possible in 1972 in the IX. Without going through the title. Both shaped the path he leads in his current role, which he began in 2018 with more than 25 years of experience in college athletics.

As the NCAA continues to celebrate Women’s History Month, Murphy spoke about the importance of the month, IX. Murphy spoke about the impact of the degree, her student-athlete and athletic coaching experiences on how to increase the number of women in leadership positions in college sports. (Note: This interview has been edited and shortened.)

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

It is a platform to identify and recognize the achievements of women. I see it as a guaranteed opportunity to highlight the many contributions that women have made and continue to make to history and society. Promoting these achievements shows the younger generation that anything is possible. A colleague of mine said, “Tis the time of year to tell ‘history’.” It is also a time to focus on the women’s rights movement and focus on issues such as gender equity.

As a former student-athlete and current administrator, how would you describe IX? How did the title affect you?

IX degree definitely opened doors for me to participate in youth and college sports, but more importantly it allowed me to learn athletic training and work as an athletic trainer alongside men in athletic training rooms and athletic departments. Having the opportunity to work with sports trainers and care for athletes of both genders helped me understand the different approaches men and women have to training, motivation and, more importantly, communication.

When I first entered the workforce I didn’t see many women in the field of athletic training. Honestly, I didn’t realize there weren’t many female mentors until I moved into administration. I have had wonderful male mentors in my administrative career. However, the more I met and talked to other women administrators, the more I realized how special that kind of support was.

I think it’s really important to see the women in my division in this role, especially the student-athletes. She acknowledges the place for women in college sports leadership. It is also important to recognize how important Article IX is for women. We must constantly celebrate the history of women and the IX. “Herstory” begins there. Today’s girls may not carry as heavy a burden as women before, but there is still work to be done.

What lessons do you carry with you from your time as a student-athlete, especially as you approach your role as athletic director?

I believe my time as a student-athlete developed my work ethic, ability to set goals, identify my time management and my leadership skills. My time as a certified athletic trainer developed my skills in servant leadership, emotional intelligence, listening, problem solving, communication, and crisis management. The lessons I learned from these terrible experiences are to show respect; have empathy; connect with your team; common sense practice; that leadership begins with trust; cooperate whenever possible; autonomy leads to empowerment, which leads to responsibility, which leads to accountability; celebrate victories; and being preliminary and transparent.

What advice do you have for young women looking to start a career in college sports?

I usually say, “It’s a good time for that.” The doors are open. In this country, you can find a woman in every position in a college athletic department. There is a desire to give more value to different voices and points of view. I usually suggest talking to as many people as possible about their career goals. I recommend asking questions about their educational background and other experiences they have had. Through these questions, I hope to find commonalities, perhaps a career path or perhaps a job opportunity available. I encourage shadowing and volunteering. I freely discuss my journey and listen to their concerns or questions about a position or career path. I help them build a network of professionals, starting with me, and then share the contact information of specific colleagues to pick their brains about their career journeys. It can be done. If there’s a will and a mentor, there’s a way.

How NCAA schools can keep up latest trend increasing the number of female directors in athletics and leadership positions in general?

In addition to ensuring a diverse applicant pool, I believe today’s sports leadership should create a pipeline for potential female ADs by identifying and developing female leaders within their department. Also, use the organization’s resources to provide opportunities for leadership training and mentoring. When trying to foster internal growth and development for women in the workforce, be sure to identify potential personal barriers when considering the option for the “big chair.” Perhaps it is the concern of combining work and life. Identify their obstacles and perhaps introduce some flexibility into their day or simply address a concern by finding a solution.

I am married, and for much of my career my husband and I have raised two children while living far from any family support. Talking to my staff about my schedule conflict and being honest about my needs allows me to reduce the guilt and stress I feel when missing events with family or at work. It also, in my opinion, opens up a dialogue with other employees to address the challenges of life-work needs. I believe that leading by doing or practicing what you preach can help your employees find balance and endless possibilities in career options.

How do they accelerate trends?

Giving female athletic directors more avenues to tell their story or explain their career. Developing more “airtime” as well as promoting and marketing what progress has been made and what the data indicates, especially where there has been improvement in female recruitment.

Celebrate achievements! Giving opportunities to gain their perspective, interpretation or insight when writing articles on all matters related to position, role and/or leadership. Today’s female athletic directors need more visibility. Women who are student-athletes, coaches and middle managers need to see and hear from women athletic directors. Seeing people who look like you will help you believe that achieving this position is possible. Continue to focus on women in the paper, celebrating their achievements and writing about those achievements.

Increase resources to support funding for professional development and networking opportunities. When budgets are tight, professional development is often the first line to be cut or eliminated. Work with your organization to offer campus-wide professional development workshops at low cost. Work within your fundraising model to identify a funding channel to support these development opportunities and make it available to your staff. Collaborate with other local organizations by hosting guest speakers, sharing costs, and including panel discussions as a way to provide networking opportunities. Organize local social networking events to build a networking community for all women in the sports industry. Promote women-led initiatives, such as Women Leaders in College Sports, to support and empower women in athletics.

As a graduate of the NCAA Pathway Program and the NCAA/Women Leaders in College Sports Institute for Advancement, how important were those programs in helping you progress to your current role?

These programs had a great impact on me. Both provided me with support and a structured environment to develop the skills and knowledge I needed to succeed in sports administration. The NCAA/Women Leaders Institute for Advancement supported my development as a manager when I moved away from my position as an athletic trainer/senior women administrator into a purely administrative role. The Pathway Program helped me further identify and develop my leadership philosophy by providing experiences that increased my confidence and preparedness to pursue an athletic director position. Both programs provided me with opportunities to network, connect and build relationships with other women in the industry. These relationships not only provide support and resources, but can also help advance our careers.

What role can such programs play in preparing more women to become AD/conference commissioners?

These programs can help address the under-representation of women in sports administration by providing a pathway to leadership positions. Both exposed me to the larger landscape of college athletics, including trends, issues and best practices. By providing women with the skills, knowledge and networking opportunities they need to succeed, these programs can help create a more inclusive and diverse sports department.

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