Hitting the Trifecta

January 29, 2015

When the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater won the 2013-14 NCAA Division III national championships in football, men's basketball, and baseball, it became the first school in any NCAA division to win all three in the same school year. What may be even more noteworthy is that the athletic director behind the Warhawks success was in an interim role.

Amy Edmonds was serving as the Senior Woman Administrator and Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Student Services at UW-W when she was asked to become Interim Athletic Director weeks before the start of the 2013-14 school year, following the departure of Paul Plinske to the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Along with the three NCAA titles, Edmonds watched her student-athletes win the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association Division III National Championship and five national titles in individual sports. The program also had one national runner-up and four third-place team finishes. UW-W placed second in the NACDA Directors' Cup Division III standings, and not surprisingly, Edmonds had the interim tag removed in May.

"Throughout the year people would joke about what a great interview I was having," Edmonds says. "But it is our veteran coaches who deserve the credit. They understand the demands and expectations of being a Warhawk and how to meet them. They're self-directed in every facet of their coaching responsibilities and display excellence in all that they do."

It also helped that Edmonds didn't think much about the interim tag in tackling her new responsibilities. "Our chancellor told me he didn't want us to stop making progress," she says. "He allowed me to be forward-thinking and visionary and make decisions based on their long-term value. So that's what I did."

Edmonds found the most difficult part of the role was letting go of tasks she had handled as an associate director. "It was a real challenge at first to not do everything myself," she says. "I found it hard to delegate responsibilities that I had held for so many years. Fortunately, our head women's basketball coach, Keri Carollo, had some experience in compliance and she became Senior Woman Administrator. Once she was up to speed, I was able to focus on areas that I had less experience with, such as budgeting, fundraising, and contracts."

Edmonds's career path began very differently than most athletic directors. A UW-W graduate, she spent seven years as a medic and public health specialist in the Air Force and Air National Guard, while also serving as an athletic trainer at a sports medicine clinic and EMT for a volunteer fire department. She returned to UW-W in 2004 as an athletic trainer before becoming Assistant Athletic Director in 2007 and Associate Athletic Director in 2010.

"I always knew I wanted to be in administration," she says. "I got a master's degree in health administration and figured I was going to be part of a hospital staff. But then the opportunity arose here to be the Senior Woman Administrator. That gave me a window to athletic administration, and I decided this was where I'd rather be."

While sports medicine is not the typical launching pad for an administrative career, Edmonds feels it was perfect training for her new job. "As an athletic trainer, you see all aspects of an athletic program, from administration and management to how coaches handle their teams," she says. "You also get a great perspective on the way different areas of the program operate and fit together. Plus, communication is a big part of being an athletic trainer, since you have to regularly talk with student-athletes, coaches, and physicians. I certainly miss the medical field, but I feel really blessed with where my career has taken me, and the success that we've been able to enjoy as an athletic department."
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