You are here

Longtime UIndy AD: ‘Never sell yourself short’

Student-athlete welfare and development of young leaders have been priorities for Sue Willey, who is retiring after 17 years in her role

Dr. Sue Willey speaking at UIndy’s 2015 Hall of Fame Banquet. Photo: University of Indianapolis

When speaking with Sue Willey, vice president for intercollegiate athletics at UIndy, you know you’re speaking with a person of passion. That’s a feeling required for anyone who aspires to work in college athletics, she said.

“In this career path, you better have a passion for what you do. Because, in most instances, you don’t get paid for the value of your work,” said Willey, in her 17th and final year at UIndy. “This is a job where you have to have a passion for what you’re doing because the kids can tell whether or not you’re in it with them or you’re simply going through the motions.”

Willey said her best advice to young professionals seeking a career in athletics is it should be about more than wins and titles. For her, a philosophy of “going beyond the W” is about the privilege to develop young people to be leaders on and off campus.

What lies beyond the W is a mentality to make student-athlete welfare the top priority, highlighting three rules Willey feels all aspiring administrators and coaches should adopt. The first is that student-athletes are at an institution to obtain a degree. Second, athletes are required to be good representatives of their institution and their community. Third, programs are expected to win and succeed, but not at the expense of the first two priorities.

“If you’re in it just to win and you’re all about the wins, then for me you’re in it for the wrong reason,” Willey said. “We’re going to win in the right way, get our degree and go on and be community leaders after (we) graduate. That’s what our goal is.”

Along with keeping student-athlete well-being a top priority, Willey stated that young professionals in college sports should stay true to their values.

“Be a person of great integrity. I always say there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. That integrity and staying true to their values and beliefs, I think that sets them up for a very successful career,” Willey said. She added that programs run into problems when coaches and administrators cut corners or try to get ahead in the wrong way.

In living her values as a pioneer of women in sport, Willey experienced the impact of Title IX as a student-athlete and later as a coach and director of athletics at UIndy. She was instrumental in fighting for equal support of women’s sport at UIndy and knows firsthand the sacrifices women made to progress in athletics programs.

Now, she tells women who want to work in college athletics not to sell themselves short.

“I like to say that there are so many women who don’t think that they’re qualified for advanced positions,” Willey said. “If there are eight qualifications, if they see that there’s two that they don’t feel qualified to do, they may not apply for that position. So my number one statement for young women professionals is never sell yourself short.”

Another piece of advice Willey offered for women in athletics is to learn as much as possible from a position to enhance knowledge and leadership skills. Willey cited Women Leaders in College Sports as a great organization designed to support women administrators.

Willey also stated that mentors are extremely important and recounted her ninth grade English teacher and Title IX trailblazers Christine Grant and Charlotte West as being influential figures early in her career. She said all young professionals should work to find good mentors who can listen, challenge, give guidance and provide support in difficult times.

“People think they only need one mentor. No, you need several mentors,” Willey said. “You want to find mentors who can provide different aspects which will enhance your growth opportunities.”