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.
Marlene Navor, currently in her seventh year at the College of Charleston, is one of a handful of women running their own communication departments. With stops along the way at Kansas State and Texas A&M. In conversation with Marlene, she spoke about the massive amount of experience she was able to gain as an undergrad by volunteering and stressed the importance of young people taking advantage of any opportunity to do the same.
On Her Journey
“I went to college at Washington State to be a sports writer.”
“While working at the student newspaper my freshman year, the SID intern at the time asked me if I ever thought about working in PR. I had always dreamed of becoming a sports writer. In the end, the Washington State SID office recruited me and led a 20-year journey in this profession. Looking back, it was the best decision I ever made with the cutbacks in the newspaper business.”
Navor went on to admit, “My parents won’t like to hear this, but I honestly didn’t go to class much. I worked press conferences and football games. I skipped class to cover my assigned sports teams and events. My grades probably weren’t good in the end, but I graduated with four years’ worth of real-life experience. Working in the athletics department as an undergrad really helped me with my career. In class, my journalism teachers helped me with my writing, researching and reporting. Had I not done all of those things, I probably wouldn’t have gotten a full-time job as soon as I did after college. It put me ahead of the class in the job search.”
On Career Challenges
“One thing challenging about the SID profession, is that not a lot of people understand a lot about what we do. We are a jack-of-all-trades in a sense. We are the one department in the athletics department that works with every sport and every other department within the department. We are very essential to the operations, because we work with everyone as well as our student-athletes. For me, I really love working with our coaches and student-athletes and watching them achieve their goals, athletically and academically. I have worked with many amazing student-athletes over the years. I like seeing them grow and keeping in touch with them. A lot of them have been concerned about me (during Hurricane Matthew) and reached out on Facebook and text. It’s awesome that those relationships continue after you leave and after they graduate from school.”
When asked if it was tougher being in her role as a women, Navor says, “It is, but I think that it is easier for women to get director jobs at basketball-only schools. It is harder for us to get jobs at the Power 5 and football schools. I honestly never aspired to be a head SID (or at a football school), but have been blessed with the opportunities that have come in my career. People believed in me more than I did of myself. I always wanted to work with men’s basketball and the College of Charleston job was perfect for me – overseeing the office and handling men’s basketball. However, women tend to get passed over for men’s basketball and football jobs in our profession, but we continue to make strides. There are many pioneer women who have set the bar and moving up the ladder in our profession.
On The Mentors Who’ve Guided Her
“My boss at Washington State, Rod Commons, was the past president of our organization [COSIDA]. He is in the Hall of Fame. I’ve worked for two past presidents and Hall of Famers in my career at A&M and Washington State. They have worked in this profession for 30+ years. Rod and AC were great mentors because they showed me that you also have to take care of the media and treat them right as well. Besides our coaches and student-athletes, they showed me how to balance both sides giving your coaches and your program what they need, as well as the hospitality in treating the media right so that they want to continue to cover you. Give them the things that they need, so that you get the best coverage for your school. I really admire the old school SIDs that had to do press releases by fax, etc. Nowadays, our profession has evolved electronically and we have had to evolved with technology. Also, you don’t see SIDs staying in this profession as long as they have. It’s definitely a different time balancing the demands of the job with the addition of social media.”
On Advice For Aspiring Professionals
“I always tell students to get as much experience as you can and early. Do it in college if you can and volunteer at as many events that you can. For me, I volunteered at different NCAA men’s basketball events all over the country. I took a two-week spring break to work NCAA Tournaments. I almost failed and didn’t graduate, but my professors understood the real-life work experience I was receiving. I would say that is the most valuable: to gain real-life work experience and to network.
“I’ve worked at many schools in my SID career which has helped me to get to know different people from different conferences. The more people you meet and the more conventions that you can go to, especially when you’re younger, take advantage of it. Networking is big and what has helped me throughout my career. Networking, getting experience early, working hard, and being one step ahead of your coaches is the best pieces of advice.”
“It was a shock for me to come to the College of Charleston seven years ago because I was used to being at a Power 5 school, and the resources that we had, so it was kind of a shock. After seven years, I can say that I’m glad that I worked at a mid-major. It gave me the ability to learn more things and expand my job responsibilities. There’s just so many different parts to juggle than when I was an assistant SID at a bigger school. I currently oversee our social media, our website and our multimedia/video department. I’ve also helped hire head coaches and served on many different committees. Working at a mid-major has made me a lot more well-rounded which only helps you to continue to grow and climb up the ladder.”