User ID: Password:

May 10, 2010

FROM ATHLETE TO ADMINISTRATOR - Former Tech softball standout Michelle Meadows now has a career in athletics as an administrator at Longwood

By: Jimmy Robertson

Photo courtesy of Longwood athletics departmentMichelle Meadows (left) is enjoying helping student-athletes in her role as the senior women’s administrator at Longwood University.

Those who work in the upper echelon of athletics administration usually must pay their dues at the working man’s level first before advancing.

Sure, some advance because of whom they know, and others because those in front of them made a timely departure. A rare group advances because they possess the talent, work ethic and charisma to handle the job.

Michelle Meadows falls into that latter category.

Meadows, one of the best softball players ever to play at Tech, is now the senior women’s administrator at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., a public liberal arts university of around 4,800 students. For those unfamiliar with athletics administration hierarchy, the senior women’s administrator – SWA, for short – often ranks as the No. 2 or No. 3 person on the perch behind the athletics director.

Meadows just turned 32 years old – and she’s been Longwood’s SWA for nearly three years.

Not bad for someone who never dreamed of working in administration while in college at Tech.

“I wanted to go to medical school,” said Meadows, who graduated in 2001 with a degree in human nutrition, foods and exercise science and a minor in chemistry. “I wanted to be a pediatrician.”

But Meadows inexplicably did not get into any of the medical schools to which she applied – despite having graduated summa cum laude from Tech. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

She ended up moving home to Richmond for a spell and working at a gym, where her job was split between personal training and sales. Wanting something more – and not a fan of sales – she decided to go to graduate school at VCU and pursue a career in athletics administration.

“I wanted something bigger,” she said. “I wanted to make an impact more, and I love sports because sports gives so many people an opportunity for a higher education that they wouldn’t have had.”

Meadows got her master’s from VCU in sports leadership in 2003. While at VCU, she worked as a graduate assistant in the athletics department’s compliance office. Once she graduated, she took a job there as the assistant compliance director and worked there for two years before a job at Longwood became open. In 2005, she took a job as the assistant athletics director for compliance at Longwood.

At that time, Longwood was in the middle of the process of becoming a Division I school. The process for any school making that move lasts five years, as a school needs to meet specific gender equity requirements and rules concerning diversity in staffing and athletes, along with other requirements.

Meadows saw the potential in Longwood and loved the challenge. So she took the job, adding that it also allowed her to stay near her family.

“There’s something special about building something,” Meadows said. “You get to put your mark on it, and that appealed to me. They were starting something here and you could see it getting better and better. So I took the plunge, and we made it through the certification process. Now we’re a Division I school. It’s nice to be a part of that.”

In 2007, she earned a promotion to SWA. Now wrapping up her fifth year at the school, she is also the sport administrator for women’s lacrosse, one of Longwood’s 14 sports, and she oversees the athletics department’s compliance program and the Student-Athlete Academic Services program designed to provide academic support to student-athletes while in school. She also heads the Champs/Life Skills program to assist them in preparing for their future endeavors.

Meadows knows a lot about building things. She was a member of Tech’s first softball recruiting class in 1995. Tech started play in 1996 with current head coach Scot Thomas, and Thomas’ landing of Meadows propelled the program into respectability. She turned down UVa, Campbell and several others.

“There was just something about the players and the staff,” she said. “I felt like I fit there. I didn’t get that same feeling when I had visited Campbell and UVa. I was comfortable with the people and the atmosphere, and there was something exciting about building a program. Before I left [during her official visit], I knew what I wanted to do. I waited a couple of weeks, but I knew in my heart where I belonged.”

Her name is still all over the Tech record books. She holds the school record for career doubles (48) and ranks second on the career list in games played (250), batting average (.347), hits (254), slugging percentage (.488), total bases (357) and walks (91).

Michelle Meadows still ranks as one of the top two hitters in the softball program’s 15-year history.

She was named the Atlantic 10’s Player of the Year in 2000 and was a two-time member of the all-conference team. She also excelled off the field, as ESPN the Magazine named her an academic All-American for three straight years.

She helped the program into the big time. Her junior season, the Hokies won 54 games and went 17-0 at home. Those records still stand.

“I’m so proud and thankful for the opportunity I received,” said Meadows, who came back to Blacksburg in April for the program’s 15-year anniversary celebration. “I’m also thankful for the people who came behind me and pushed the program forward. To be able to watch them in the Women’s College World Series [in 2008], that’s just amazing. The program has continued to get better and better.”

For the time being, Meadows is content in her role at Longwood. She originally contemplated becoming an athletics director as her goal – and hasn’t totally ruled that out – but she enjoys her role as constructed, which allows her to interact with coaches and student-athletes on a daily basis.

She also wants to finish what she started. Longwood achieved Division I status, but the athletics program participates as an independent in most sports and desperately needs to find a conference home to continue to flourish.

“I would never say no as to what the future may hold for me, but this is my first full year working daily with our academic support services and I’m excited about that,” she said. “We’ve got a new president coming on July 1 [retiring Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan] and hopefully he can guide us into a conference.

“I want to stick around and see us finish what we’ve started. We’ve had some growing pains, and a lot of people have made sacrifices. I’ve had an opportunity to have my hand on a lot of different things and gain some experience. I’m appreciative of that, and I think our future here is bright. I’d like to stick around to see it.”