What does an Athletic Director look like? Ideally, there is no one answer. Athletic Directors should be very diverse, just like our student athlete populations are. Unfortunately, we find that (in Cincinnati especially) there is a lot of work to be done to make the field of athletic directors more diverse and equitable.
Eight years ago, two ABC Athletic Directors at CPS High Schools met with one of their industry peers around a table at House of Cigars. Here, they confronted a hard truth: athletic directors are predominantly older, white males. While there are people of color and women to be found in the position of Athletic Director (AD), they are most often found in lower income public school districts, while higher income schools tend to hire white ADs. Diverse student populations necessitate diverse hires that are able to understand, relate to, and navigate the challenges unique to their student populations. So these three men decided to do something about it.
They identified a need for professional development and education, as well as a network that could provide support, service, and social strength. With these resources, the tide could rise for all ships: both racial minorities and women, as well as the many students these ADs serve. Thus, the Minority Athletic Director Association (MADA) was born.
MADA is a group of men and women that serve as mentors who share information and strategies to facilitate success in school administration. It’s closely modeled off of and partnered with the National Organization of Minority Athletic Directors (NOMAD) and the Black Athletic Director Association (whose acronym we’ll let you figure out for yourself). Back when MADA was founded, there were approximately 400-500 athletic directors regionally, and only 10 were either minorities or women. All of these ADs were pigeon-holed into certain districts, some by choice out of a passion for a certain community, but others because they felt the field would allow them no further growth. MADA decided to be a catalyst, bringing this community of professionals into the next generation of inclusion and innovation.
MADA currently has 18 ADs as active members, representing 13 different local schools. The group also recruits veteran ADs as well as aspiring ADs to create a comprehensive mentorship network. Full membership requires that you are a minority AD (or future AD), though ally membership is offered as well for non-ADs. The organization promotes community service, mentorship, scholarship, and education, and engages frequently in the community in the name of those principles.
Perhaps its most popular program is its “So You Want to be an AD” workshop series, which provides a comprehensive examination of high school athletic administration. These workshops are open to anyone high school aged and older, and take place in the Fall and Spring in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati’s Sport Administration program.
MADA is currently in the planning stages to see what a statewide rollout would look like for the organization. Ideally, all districts across the state would meet once a month to give each other support and solidarity. MADA leadership will meet with partners this month to decide if and when the organization can go statewide.
Stephen Ellison, the current president of MADA and ABC’s Athletic Director at Walnut Hills High School, is particularly excited to share an update about MADA’s scholarship opportunities available to high school student athletes and leaders. Stephen shared that MADA is all about “making an impact, having a purpose, and being able to pull people behind you up,” and their scholarships are a vital part of that.
These scholarships are intended to support the collegiate pursuits of local student athletes. Winners receive $500, to be applied towards their collegiate education. Whether they decide to continue playing sports through or after college, MADA hopes they will all consider education and careers that may bring them back to become ADs someday.
This past week, MADA announced the winners of their 2021 scholarships. These students are all intelligent, college-bound leaders in their communities, and all participate in either varsity sports or band.
Special congratulations to the winners of the 2021 scholarships:
These students have spent years playing basketball, football, and softball, and have each been featured in local news for their outstanding performance.
“Choosing our awardees was not an easy task,” Stephen Ellison shared. “We had a fantastic pool of students to choose from and we’re incredibly proud of every application we read. Every single one of these students have incredibly bright futures ahead of them.”
Congratulations to Courtney, Nathan, Devin, and Nila!