This qualitative study focused on the educational, professional, and personal experiences of seven women who currently serve as NCAA Division III athletics directors. While previous literature has examined the experiences of women in Divisions I and II, very little has focused specifically on those in Division III, even though more women serve as athletics directors in this division (Acosta & Carpenter, 2010). Using phenomenology as the methodological roadmap, participants were purposefully selected from Midwestern, small, coeducational, traditional residential colleges, where the quintessential Division III experience exists. Participating athletics directors took part in a series of three semi-structured interviews, which served as the primary data source. Data were analyzed and coded, and then themes were organized into three areas: (1) experiences leading up to the attainment of athletics director positions; (2) experiences related to their current positions; and (3) the convergence of their personal and professional lives.
While the participants typically served as administrators prior to becoming athletics directors, their coaching experiences have been especially vital to their current positions. Their positions require frequent and diverse interactions with others, including those within their athletics departments, various constituencies on campus, and outside their institutions. Unlike previous literature, this study revealed participating Division III female athletics directors have experienced very few gender-related challenges in their careers. The participants care deeply about college athletics, are energized by interactions with student-athletes and coaches, and value the Division III philosophy. Despite the extended and irregular hours their positions require, they try to maintain work/life balance; however, some are more successful than others. They employ various tactics when balancing the people in their lives with their demanding careers.
The findings of the study have implications for various constituencies, including aspiring and current intercollegiate athletics administrators, coaches, and institution administrators. Recommendations for future research include exploring the experiences of male and female Division III athletics directors, and considering factors such as public and private institutions, men's, women's, and co-educational colleges, geographic regions, and enrollment. Furthermore, continued exploration of work/life balance within the field of intercollegiate athletics would be valuable, specifically the experiences of female administrators, coaches, and other staff.