There are some things I’ve always loved. Sport and fitness. Writing. Issues of justice and equality related to women and gender. And, as I look back, making a difference. I was an athlete all my life. I was voted “Most LIkely to be on ESPN” in high school. I began coaching basketball when I was an undergrad at Cal Poly SLO. At Cal Poly, I also started a NOW (National Organization for Women) campus chapter. I came out as a lesbian and spoke on panels. I loved making a difference. I got to my current role as Director of the Conscious Leadership Academy in a bit of a tragic way. At least it was tragic for me. I began coaching women’s basketball at San Diego Mesa College in 1998. I loved athletics and I loved the community college level. I wanted to work my way up and become an athletic director and then perhaps a higher-level administrator. I started the Ph.D. program in Leadership at the University of San Diego, and I began research focused on athletics. All seemed to be going well. My college team was one of the tops in San Diego, I was an integrated member of Mesa College, working hard in many aspects of campus.
I was digging into research and even co-authored a chapter about sports and gender, and felt life was going well. One day, I was called into a meeting with my athletic director. He simply told me, “I am not reassigning you as head coach.” He gave me no reason or justification. He wasn’t willing to have a conversation with me about it. I Basically, I walked into the meeting and was fired. I left in shock. I was pregnant with my third child and in the middle of a Ph.D. program where my work was focused on athletics. What was I going to do? A few stars aligned for me then. First, the lesbian basketball community is a small one. The news of my firing spread quickly and I had some amazing people offer help. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), along with Matt Stephen (San Diego Lawyer) and Leslie Levy (Boxer & Gerson, LLP) took up my case and we filed a suit against the Athletic Director, the college and the district for Title IX retaliation and homophobic discrimination. It was a LONG three years, perhaps the second hardest thing I’ve been through. We won our case in a trial by jury. While that part of the story has a happy ending, being forced out of what I loved (and still love) to do was painful and hard. Every November, when basketball season comes along, I think about how I wanted my life to be as a college basketball coach. Second star that aligned was that I had an amazing advisor at USD who was also a basketball coach, Cheryl Getz. She helped me refocus my direction and find new avenues for my work. I shifted my focus from coaching basketball to young women to developing leadership, and actually, there are many similarities. I began teaching and with the support of the Dean of the School or Leadership and Education Sciences, Paula Cordiero, we started the Center for Women’s Leadership. I completed my dissertation, studying women in authority, specifically how women face challenges and navigate issues of voice and power. Slowly, my work at USD expanded and now I find myself in an amazing role as Director of the Conscious Leadership Academy where we attempt to develop a different kind of leader… one who is aware and authentic, courageous and kind, and still is able to get things done and effectively achieve goals.