Gannon’s athletic director unites its student-athletes and community

Student-athletes and others associated with Gannon University are well aware that Lisa Goddard McGuirk serves as director of athletics for the Division II school, but what does that entail?  McGuirk’s strong background has prepared her for a bright future full of great ideas to implement for student-athletes and the whole Gannon community.

Upon graduating from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., in 1997, McGuirk began the journey that led her to her current position at Gannon.  As a former NCAA basketball and softball student-athlete, she knew she wanted to stay in sports but never would have expected that her career path would take her to where is today.

From 1997-99, she was the softball coach and the recruiting coordinator at the University of Massachusetts Boston.  She then continued her career as the softball coach at Centenary College of Louisiana, a Division I school in Shreveport, La.  She would be the coach at Centenary College from 1999-02.

From there McGuirk headed to Mississippi to teach and coach softball in the Gulfport School District from 2002-04. In 2005, she worked at the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University in Boston, and also served as the coordinator of youth sports health.

After a year at Northeastern, McGuirk was ready to take on her first job as a director of athletics.  She said that her time at Northeastern and coaching softball for 11 years, as well as coaching basketball and volleyball at the collegiate level, had given her enough experience to make that career move and try her hand at the administrative side of things.

“If I can coach at the collegiate level, rebuild programs and manage a Division I program at Northeastern University for the Center for the Study of Sport in Society, I thought that I could do it in the next level,” McGuirk explained.

McGuirk got her first job as an athletic director at the College of Saint Elizabeth, a Division III institution in Morristown, N.J.

While McGuirk worked as athletic director there, she said that she was a one man show for most of her first year.  She served as a game administrator, the business manager, worked with marketing and promotions, dealt with compliance and pretty much did a little bit of everything.

“College of Saint Elizabeth prepared me for anything and gave me a little bit of experience on every part of being an athletic director,” McGuirk said.  “It also gave me insight because once I got to Cedar Crest with a bigger staff I was able to relate to them since I had a little experience in all of the different jobs.”

Also during her time at the College of Saint Elizabeth, she led an effort to have the school become members of both the North Eastern Atlantic Conference (NEAC) and the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).  Today, McGuirk remains a member of the ECAC Championship Selection Committee and the ECAC Marketing Committee.

This past season McGuirk provided Gannon the opportunity to join the ECAC for all sports.  Being a part of the ECAC gave student-athletes the chance to get more awards and recognition for their success in that division as well as in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).  It also gave Gannon’s athletic teams an opportunity to advance to the ECAC postseason tournament if the team wasn’t invited to the NCAA tournament.  By providing Gannon athletics the opportunity to be a part of the ECAC, McGuirk gave student-athletes and teams the chance to be recognized for their success on another level.

Women’s basketball player Nettie Blake received several awards from the ECAC this past season and she said that she was very grateful that McGuirk was able to get Gannon into the conference.

“I won ECAC player of the week twice and I was named to the ECAC first-team all-conference,” Blake said. “It really meant a lot to me personally because being from New Jersey it was the first time that I received recognition and was able to play in the same conference with my high school teammates.”

McGuirk spent four years at the College of Saint Elizabeth from 2005-09 before becoming a member of Softball Ireland, a nonprofit organization for players and the sport’s administrative authority in Ireland.  McGuirk was a part of the National Coaching Committee for Softball Ireland.

In 2012, McGuirk landed her second opportunity to serve as an athletic director at the college level, this time at Cedar Crest College, a private women’s school in Allentown, Pa.  In addition to being the school’s athletic director, she worked with wellness and recreation and was the softball coach.

McGuirk was happy at Cedar Crest until she heard about the job opening at Gannon, and she knew she had to apply.  McGuirk was introduced as Gannon’s AD in August 2014 and just completed her first full academic year on the job.

McGuirk said each stop along the way to her position at Gannon has proved beneficial.

“Every institution I’ve been at has provided me with a little bit of a different experience and I’ve grown at every single one and continue to grow here at Gannon,” McGuirk said.

McGuirk’s job as the director of athletics at Gannon goes way beyond all of the work she does behind a desk.  The school’s student-athletes are her primary concern, as she wants to create a better environment for them not only during sporting events but in the classroom and in the community.  She said that working with student-athletes is what drives her.

Student-athletes believe that McGuirk already has made an impact on their lives and that she is a good fit for the entire athletic department, after only being here for a year.

Women’s basketball player McKenna Shives said that she really appreciates what McGuirk does and added that she is very approachable.

“I feel like I can go talk to her whenever I need to,” Shives said.  “She’s not just some lady that I see who I know is in an administrative position — she’s someone that I feel comfortable going up to.

“The athletic department really meshes through her and it’s a great thing here at Gannon.”

Volleyball player Morgan Walters also said that McGuirk is easy to talk to for a student-athlete.

“I think that she really relates to student-athletes well because she was a student-athlete herself and was also a coach for so many years,” Walters said.  “She always has the best interest in mind for student-athletes and is always there for us to talk to.”

Kasey Harter, a women’s golfer at Gannon, said that McGuirk is a great addition to the Knights family and has already made a difference in the little time that she has been here.

“She has already made connections and relationships with most of the student-athletes and I believe that she has great plans to keep our athletic department new and exciting in future years,” Harter said.

Football player Ben Balzer also said that McGuirk has a great future in store for Gannon athletics.

“I think she has shown that she really wants to build a great atmosphere at all of the team sporting events and wants to get the entire student body involved within the next few years,” Balzer said.

Leilani King, a women’s lacrosse player, said that McGuirk has worked one-on-one with her team as the lacrosse program goes through the process for hiring a new coach.

“She encouraged us to be a part of it so we know that we are getting the best possible coach for our team,” King said. “Knowing that Lisa has our team’s best interest in mind, it will make this hiring process and transition a lot easier.”

Moving forward at Gannon, McGuirk has a lot of ideas flowing to implement next year for student-athletes and the whole Gannon community.  She said she is excited to take these steps forward because she knows the community is right there with her.

“I know that everyone is on the same page from the president, vice president, my staff, the coaching staff and the student-athletes and we are all rowing the boat in the same direction,” McGuirk said.  “Rowing at a very rapid pace too, may I add.”

McGuirk said that some of her main goals from the student development side of things are that she would like to create a clear baseline standard that she will expect from all student-athletes and teams in regards to academic support and recruiting.

She hopes to work with the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) to make an informative video of what to do when you are a host for an NCAA official recruiting visit, which will provide a little more guidance in that aspect.   Every team should be consistent when recruiting athletes to come to Gannon.

McGuirk also said she hopes to work more on the marketing and promotions side of things.  Her goal is to try to create a more fun and inclusive atmosphere around all of the different sporting events.  McGuirk wants to get all the student-athletes, along with the whole Gannon community, out to sporting events, to support their fellow athletes and make it a fun experience.

Support for all of the sporting events can really make a difference to the success of the teams participating.  Higher attendance at all sporting events will bring the students and athletic teams together so they feel a bigger part of the Gannon experience.

Lastly, McGuirk said she really hopes to fully implement the Step Up Program, which is a program for students to take a pledge to stand up and to be proactive in helping other students.  She said she feels like the Step Up Program will be very beneficial for students and Gannon as a whole because we all have to have each other’s backs.

“We really have to be united,” McGuirk said.  “It’s not about this sport or that sport — we are all student-athletes and a part of the Gannon community. If we lead by example as student-athletes and stand up for our actions, we hold ourselves to a higher standard.

“This will be a great value to not only the student-athletes but the whole Gannon community because I think it will spread.”

Editor’s note: Amanda Berchtold is a member of Gannon’s women’s basketball team.

 

AMANDA BERCHTOLD

[email protected]