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Prep Zone: Puyallup athletic director resigns from WIAA assembly to boost gender equity

Faced with a gender disparity among high school sports leadership in Washington, two athletic directors came together to make a difference.

PUYALLUP, Wash. — A South Sound athletic director stepped down this month from his representative assembly position to improve gender equity on the committee.

In recent years, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) executive board has talked about trying to make a push for equity amongst its administration and representative assembly.

“We've got not a very diverse group right now taking place in the rep assembly and other areas, and it's something that we've started to look at (in) our district is coaching as well,” said Puyallup School District Athletic Director Jim Meyerhoff.

In January, the WIAA held a Zoom call with athletic directors that explored ways to improve gender equity. ADs were challenged to start looking at the big picture and to act.

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Coming into the school year, Athletic Director Lacey London from Holy Names Academy was the only female in a 35-member athletic director representative assembly, which votes on matters that affect male and female student athletes.

In Washington state, 17% of athletic directors are women, but only 3% of voting members at the WIAA are female, according to Curtis High School Athletic Director Suzanne Vick.

“So, it is concerning. But the thing that is not concerning is that the movement has started,” Vick said.

When the WIAA held the Zoom call, Meyerhoff didn’t wait. He made a call that day. Meyerhoff is still the Puyallup School District AD, but he resigned his position with the representative assembly and gave his spot at the table to Vick, who is in her third year as Curtis athletic director.

Meyerhoff said it seemed like the right thing to do.

“I think Suzanne brings a lot to the table and it won't just be her. Hopefully we continue to have a lot of diversity in many different areas,” said Meyerhoff. 

“I'm so proud to be a colleague of his, and I'm so proud to be part of the (South Puget Sound League), because we do have these hard conversations,” Vick said.

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Even with the gyms and hallways still empty, Vick is doing her best to support the student-athletes.

“The role of the AD through this pandemic has really changed,” Vick said. “It's kind of morphed, and I feel like I’ve taken a role with some technology and social media to really inspire our students and our athletes to continue to push hard, to persevere and do well in spite of the pandemic, to not let the pandemic define who they are.”

Fifteen miles away, Meyerhoff is also trying to navigate through the pandemic.

“We're trying to make sure we follow the guidelines,” Meyerhoff said. “That's been the biggest thing is trying to make sure that we were within those guidelines, keep everybody healthy.”

Vick will be busy. Not only is she the Vikings AD, she’s also a mother of three, but she understands the importance of being an advocate for diversity and gender equity.

“Every year I pick a word, and this year's word is minutes,” said Vik. “And there's 525,600 minutes in a year, and my goal is to use each of those minutes to the best of my ability. This work is too important not to prioritize it. I think the, the one thing is I'm committed to serving in this capacity being loud in my space and continuing to advocate for diversity and inclusion and equity.”