Women Leaders in College Sports
Podcast Interview Summary
Interviewer: Patti Phillips, CEO
Interviewee: Julie Roe Lach, Of Counsel, CCH+A and Deputy Commissioner, Horizon League
How did you get interested in sports?
Answer: Grew up in small-town Pinckneyville, Illinois. Lived near family and sports were a big part of what family did. Played basketball every Sunday.
What’s your educational background?
Answer: Studied American Studies, started out as Pre-Med at Milliken, but didn’t like it and spent the summer living with older sister who was in law school and had a pivot where decided to go law school. American studies afforded the opportunity to graduate to go to law school.
Did an internship when headquarters of NCAA was Kansas City, only 100 people decided to move when NCAA moved to Indianapolis, took the job and was able to work at NCAA while earning law degree. 90 other people started the four year program five nights a week, worked with great people who provided flexibility at NCAA and were supportive.
Were you promoted at the same time you were still getting degree?
Answer: Yes, got promoted and kept moving up to Vice President of Enforcement. At that time, one of the few women at that level. There weren’t a lot of women or other diversity at first meeting.
Vice President job resulted in separation that led to so many positive things, first, can you talk about how it was a hard time for you?
Answer: Call it involuntary transition, loved the job, loved working there and ended up moving on. It has been an incredible journey and during that time became good friends with Patti who helped during that struggle. At NCAA, was one of two women that were pregnant at executive level position and when left had 3 year old and 3 month old girl and had a lot more time with them and helped figure out next position and how children were going to be a part of it.
Ability to talk openly about involuntary transition was remarkable and has helped so many people, was there something in your past that made you able to not totally internalize it or refocus how you looked at the situation and helped you springboard forward? How do we help other women in that space who have been through these tough times?
Answer: Humbling experience to help people who have gone through losing their job. You have to focus on significance not success. You measure yourself based on how you help others. Losing your job is not losing your identity, and had frankly poured too much of self into NCAA Vice President job and helped take a step back and figure out what really matters at the end of the day. It all comes back to who helps you through those times, family, friends. People are still people. You know that sun is coming up regardless of what happens.
Did a great job transitioning, so started a consulting practice to help coach women which was hugely successful and then the Horizon League came calling. Talk about how you transitioned?
Answer: Started the consultation firm after talking with a lot of people and was hired to help other women. Did not want to leave the space of college athletics, there were so many good people. Helped with compliance to help people stay out of trouble and also helped what to do when they got in trouble because that’s where bread and butter was. Also, frankly, helping women in their careers was the most fulfilling. Church Church Hittle and Antrim liked consultation model and they were starting a Sports Law practice so negotiations with them to merge happened at the same time the Horizon League approached about position. As long as the Horizon League was first priority it worked out and has been doing both for 5 years now. CCH+A is the acronym for the firm, but really proud to be a part of an all women team.
We say this a lot, but I don’t really know how you do it. How do you manage two big jobs and your family?
Answer: In the book Lean In, she defines the notion of having it all. Think women are capable of so many incredible things individually and collectivity. She talks about marrying your partner. Husband is awesome, we co-parent, we try to it all with our kids together. We are in it to win it. Same thing with volunteer services, we try to do it as a family so you’re spending time with them while serving others. We all get stretched thin. There’s a lot of power sometimes in “No”, but it comes back to what really matters, so that when adversity does hit, are you going to feel good about where your priorities are?
Are there other things you do, or a secret you can share when things get overwhelmed?
Answer: Fishing, spending time outside, and love to spin and workout in the morning. It’s a good relief. Be present in the moment with kids and spend time with kids.
One bit of advice to reach potential and reach dreams?
Answer: You can do it, women are awesome. We are special people, and when you get a lot of women in the room, good things come out of it. Egos get checked at the door and we can do more together.