Making space after historic legislation: Prominent women in San Joaquin County sports

·5 min read
Alyssa Cuevas, former athletic director of Chavez High school
Alyssa Cuevas, former athletic director of Chavez High school

Since 1972 Title IX was created to bring gender equity to sports. Much of the attention has been on the playing field where women athletes have received more opportunity.

However, more recently additional attention has been given to the administrative side of sports, with women receiving opportunities to be in the executive positions of sports teams.

In San Joaquin County, there are three women who are athletic director of their high schools, a job which puts them in charge of all the school's athletic programs. A part of that administrative role involves managing all facets of an athletic program, which includes scheduling, hiring coaches, attending as many of the school's sporting events and more.

In NCAA Division I schools only 15% of women fill the athletic director position as of 2020, a part of that 15% is University of the Pacific's Athletic Director Janet Lucas. At the high school level around 21.8% of women are athletic directors. When Alyssa Cuevas, the former athletic director at Cesar Chavez high school took on the role three years ago she saw those disparities.

“When I did the training this last summer of 2021 and a little bit of fall 2021 I did see that there were more males than females but there were quite a few females that were in there, which was nice to see,” Cuevas said. “In our league itself, Stockton Unified only has males. I was the only female athletic director.”

Read more: As US celebrates 50 years of Title IX, a new bill aims to improve gender equity in sports

Along with Cuevas in the San Joaquin Athletic Association league, Darcy Altheide has been the athletic director for Bear Creek High School since 2020. In the Sierra Valley Conference, Courtney Carrillo  of Galt High school is the only woman athletic director. She plans to step down this year.

For these four women it wasn’t a simple decision to follow a career on the administrative side of sports. Lucas, who has spent 42 years in sports administration, said she didn't initially know that the business side of sports would ignite her passion for people. She said she found that the goal behind collegiate sports was something she was drawn to despite the looming challenges of working in a male-dominated field.

“I learned pretty quickly that change is typically more of an evolution than a revolution in so many ways,” Lucas said. “So patience and persistence to me can work hand in hand in just showing our students that they're capable of being a director of athletics, be it male or female, is part of what I can do.”

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Cuevas, Altheide and Carrillo’s paths were similar as they all had a sports background and a desire to work closely with student athletes. At their respective schools however, the opportunity to become an athletic director would mean not only taking on that position.

As a seventh and eighth-grade world history teacher, the Titans varsity softball coach, and AD, Cuevas started her days teaching for half the day and from there she would take care of her athletic director duties. Carrillo and Altheide have a similar schedule as neither of their positions are fully released, which means that they would be relieved from their teaching duties.

Current University of the Pacific athletic director Janet Lucas speaks at the dedication ceremony for the new Amos Alonzo Stagg Memorial Football Plaza on the UOP campus in Stockton.
Current University of the Pacific athletic director Janet Lucas speaks at the dedication ceremony for the new Amos Alonzo Stagg Memorial Football Plaza on the UOP campus in Stockton.

“The athletic director position is a very time-consuming position and I recently had my third baby, actually in October so it's been a big adjustment from having two to now having three,” Carrillo said. “I'm just gonna be stepping down so that I can focus on teaching full time and my family.”

Typically high school ADs in the Lodi Unified School District are given two class periods to do their job and for SUSD the timeframe is determined by the school’s principal. Richie Lynch, who is a fully-released athletic director at Edison High school, can attest that being an AD is a full-time job.

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“ If I had to teach any classes – there's no way, I'm handing in my keys,” Lynch joked. “Alyssa, she was teaching, coaching and being AD that's just a recipe for failure. It's a minimum eight hour a day job on non-game days, which as you get going, there's fewer of those.”

Along with trying to balance her teaching job, Cuevas found that the position limited her time with student-athletes, which was one of her main reasons for getting into the sports world. This led to her also stepping down from the AD position.

After this year Altheide and Lucas will be the remaining women athletic directors in San Joaquin County. While occupying these high-level roles within sports, both women said they hope that they show the possibilities for women and girls in sports. For Altheide this is especially meaningful as her daughter also is entering sports management.

“My daughter's doing a master's program in sports management, which kind of goes along with this field,” Altheide said. “So I look at the sports field and I see how women are becoming coaches at higher levels and I see that there's just more opportunity for women to kind of step out and do what has been in the past kind of a male thing.”

Lucas sees her role as athletic director as an opportunity to not only make Pacific’s athletics a top competitor in the West Coast Conference but also a sounding board for any student who wants to get into the sports world. This past year, Lucas mentored a Pacific student-athlete who switched her major to sports management.

“If you are a female that has a passion for sports there are tons of careers out there that you can fulfill,” Cuevas said. “Don't think, if you’re passionate about it and if you love it go for it because there are things out there that can fulfill that joy of sports for you.”

Record reporter Shannon Belt covers sports. She can be reached at sbelt@recordnet.com or on Twitter @ShannonBelt3. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow

This article originally appeared on The Record: Historical impact of Title IX: Prominent women in sports in SJ County