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.
Beth Goetz is entering her first year at UConn as the Huskies Chief Operating Officer/SWA. Prior to joining the UConn staff, Goetz served in various roles at Minnesota, including interim AD. In talking to College AD, Goetz reminded us of something that is often overlooked, every difficult situation provides an opportunity to learn more about yourself.
On Her Journey
“I played soccer in undergrad at a private two-year school and then played my last two years in the ACC at Clemson and I graduated from there.
“Actually, it never occurred to me that working in college athletics would be my career path. I was going to be a therapist, so I knew I was going to go to grad school. Really, my coaches at Clemson encouraged me to give it a try. They said, ‘Hey you’re going to grad school. Why not try to get an assistant job while you’re there? You’re going to be on a campus anyway.’ That’s how it played out. I got an assistant position back in my hometown, which is sort of a coincidence, at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. I just fell into it; I was an assistant for a year and the head coach moved on. They took a chance on a young kid, and I got the head coaching position there, and the rest is history.
“Missouri, St. Louis is a small school, and at small schools you wear a lot of hats. So I sort of got into the administration side right away as well. I was coaching and had a few other things on my plate; it gave me a lot of experience in a lot of different areas.
“I was intrigued by the bigger picture, and it was a difficult decision to step away from coaching because you miss the relationships and the impact you have directly on student-athletes, but you realize that you have an opportunity to impact them in a different way in a more global perspective.
“From coaching, I took a position at Butler University, and I felt like my background in coaching helped particularly in overseeing coaches and sports. You may not know exactly what’s going on in every situation, but you can at least empathize with what the coaches have on their plates.”
On Career Challenges
“In my role at Minnesota, I was overseeing the day to day, so you’re really empowered to be as prepared as possible. It was a challenging time; your first responsibility is to make sure your student-athletes and coaches have a great experience and have all the support they need. We wanted to show them that even though we had some difficulties, it didn’t affect the overall culture of our department and that we operate with the utmost integrity. We put a lot of emphasis on being as communicative and transparent as we could while continuing to operate with the specifics of what we had right in front of us. Your practices, competitions, athletes, and coaches don’t slow down just because you’re in a leadership transition.
“Every difficult situation that you come across that doesn’t have a clear path is a great opportunity to learn a little bit more about yourself, about the way you want to lead, to lean on others that you look up to in the industry, and really make sure that as you move forward in those situations that your decisions reflect your own personal values and the values of the institution that you represent. Sometimes that’s faced in a small way; whether it’s as a coach when an athlete makes a poor choice and how you choose to approach that, and sometimes they present themselves a little more publicly such as some of the issues we faced at Minnesota over that past year. It’s important to remember what our responsibility and role is and get better each and every day. We’re never going to have all of the answers, so you really need to be resourceful and make sure that you’re moving in a direction that everyone is going to be proud of.”
On The Mentors Who’ve Guided Her
“Every opportunity I’ve had has been because I’ve had someone lift me up and encourage me to move forward to grow a little bit. I’ve has some great coaches as a student-athlete. There was a woman I worked with at the University of Missouri, St. Louis who overlapped with me very briefly. She’s now the athletic director there; her name is Lori Flanagan. She had a big impact on me as I moved from coaching into administration. She taught me how to see the bigger picture and how you can impact an entire department and support your coaches. She’s one that I keep in touch with and reach out to along the way. The AD I worked for at Butler, Barry Collier, is a man of integrity and shows you that you can do everything the right way. That’s going to lead to success. Now I get to work with David Benedict again. I also got to interact with Jim Phillips and many others in the Big 10… Jim Delaney and the president at the University of Minnesota Eric Kaler as well. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of great people.”
On Advice For Aspiring Professionals
“You’ve got to do something that you know you’ll be passionate about. It’s not about looking to where you want to be from a position standpoint, but it’s about figuring out where you can make the biggest impact. If you do that and make the right decision each and every day in support of giving your athletes a great experience athletically and academically as we help them develop into adult leaders, then you’ll end up where you want to go.”