Ed. Note: Torchbearers is a College AD series profiling female leaders in college athletics. Torchbearers is presented by SM2. SM2 is committed to positively impacting the culture of social networking users in athletics, SM2 provides the only foundational education programs customized for global sports brands.
After more than a decade in charge at UNC Asheville, Athletic Director Janet Cone continues to lead the Bulldogs to unprecedented heights. Cone is the only female member of the NCAA Division I Basketball Committee, and was named an Under Armour AD of the Year in 2013. Prior to taking over at UNC Ashville, she served as Associate AD at Samford, and during our conversation with her, Cone repeatedly brought up the importance of helping others as they try to progress in their careers.
On Her Journey
“My journey still continues, which is one of the things I love about what I do. I feel like every day is almost like the first day. I think that’s one of the lessons I share with anyone, find the thing that you’re really passionate about so that way when you get up every morning you still are excited and anxious and even on a bad day you are still glad that you do what you do. That’s one of the things I’ve been so fortunate, having spent my whole career in athletics and education. ”
On Career Challenges
“Sometimes we read the not so great things about college athletics. That’s just the world we live in, but when you’re on a college campus, doesn’t matter where, there are so many good stories happening in college athletics. Someone who is first in their family to get a degree or helping with community service, making a difference. Coaches supporting coaches, its one of the things I really love about the culture we’ve developed here [at UNC-A]. The stories that don’t make the newspaper about young people who get our in the community to help people.
“College athletics is about leadership and I think we have some real leaders, not only in administration and coaching but the [student-athletes] themselves. That’s why I’m glad I’m still working in college athletics.
“As an admin, I’m running a team of adults who are helping young people and my team also includes those young people so how can I put them together to have great chemistry or culture? How do we learn to trust each other? How do we hold each other accountable? That sounds like a coach, and that part helps me getting people to work together. I call it winning by committee.”
On The Mentors Who’ve Guided Her
“What really excites me, and something that I share that I’ve learned from my mentors, is it’s really about what you are doing to help other people. We’re doing this because we are trying to help young people. As an administrator, not only am I trying to help student-athletes but coaches and administrators, who are what I call my team.
“Chris Voelz, who I met when I was leaving coaching to become an administrator, taught me something that I realty try to do. You have to be willing to open doors for others. Never get too busy doing your job that you can’t figure out how to help someone else have the opportunities you had. I’ve tried to really carry that through my everyday job.”
On Advice For Aspiring Professionals
“Everybody has opportunities no matter where you are, and what you do with those opportunities is how you work with people. The other part of being an athletic director is being able to learn from others. We all have to get together and work together.
“Be a lifelong learner, even five years ago athletics was different than it is today and it will continue to change. Anything will in life, I don’t care what you’re doing, always be able willing to keep learning because you’re going to have to keep adapting. If you’re not willing to be a lifelong learner you could get left behind.
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