National Girls and Women in Sport Day: Queens AD Cherie Swarthout

Queens AD Cherie Swarthout is the Atlantic Sun's only female athletic director.

Queens AD Cherie Swarthout is the Atlantic Sun’s only female athletic director.

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For the first time in the program’s history, Queens University of Charlotte is competing at the Division I level.

Following the 2021-22 academic year, Queens University Charlotte Athletic Director Cherie Swarthout – who is in her 17th year at Queens and her eighth as the school’s DA – announced that the university would move from Division II to Division I athletics.

Despite the move, 2022-23 is shaping up to be another successful season for the Royals, both on and off the pitch. The Royals had 468 student-athletes who achieved a GPA of 3.0 or higher a season ago. The school’s athletes posted a cumulative GPA of 3.39, one of their best years under Swarthout.

This year, the men’s basketball team is poised for its 13th straight winning season. Queens’ swimming and diving teams remain a powerhouse: Both the men’s and women’s teams have won the last seven Division II national titles.

Swarthout played college basketball at Michigan State, where she led the Spartans to their first NCAA Tournament bid in school history as a senior. After graduating, she moved to Illinois State to coach under Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Dr. Jill Hutchison.

Swarthout credits Karen Langeland, LeAnna Bordner, Sue Guevara, Linda Herman, Jeannie King and Hutchison among her mentors. Through their lessons, Swarthout inspires the next generation of women and girls in sport.

“I was lucky enough to play and work for pioneers,” Swarthout said. “It was because of what they worked for and the history lesson I constantly received that ingrained in me the need to provide opportunity, uplift and empower women in the world. sport throughout my career and especially as an AD at Queens.”

Swarthout is the Atlantic Sun Conference’s only female athletic director, and just the second in league history. Only 20% of athletic director positions are held by women across all collegiate athletic divisions.

With his answers slightly edited for clarity and brevity, here’s what Swarthout had to say about his role in athletics:

On his early coaching influences

Swarthout: “I come from a very small town called Climax, Michigan. It is a small town of less than 1,000 inhabitants. I graduated with 42 kids in my high school class and then went to a school of 42,000 students in the state of Michigan. My head coach was Karen Langeland. And I had two assistants, Sue Guevara and LeAnna Bordner, who I really believed in from the start. What’s interesting is that my experience was kind of a leap of faith for the kid on a small farm, to go to Michigan State and play Big Ten Division I basketball . These three people in particular remain steadfast in my life today.

Working for Dr. Jill Hutchison

Swarthout: “Jill Hutchison is also an icon of Title IX, women’s basketball and everything she has done at Illinois State. … After graduating from Michigan State, I was offered the opportunity to go work for Jill. It was the best of both worlds to play basketball for three great leaders. And then to Illinois State, working for Jill Hutchison.

“I’ve always been, especially in those younger years, I was at Illinois State for 10 years, surrounded by (female) leaders who really made a difference. And they did that at their way, all of them.

Find your style in Queens

Swarthout: “I came to Queens and we have a female president. And we have a female athletic director at Jeanne King. Again, two very strong leaders who influenced and shaped me a lot. And again, everyone does it in their own way. And I hope I’ve taken a little bit of each of them and created my own sense of my own style in trying to continually promote and uplift women in sports.

To be a pioneer in women’s athletics

Swarthout: I think (my mentors) saw a tremendous opportunity there. And not necessarily a burden. They knew what was important and gave women the opportunity to participate in elevating women in sport, whether through coaching or administration. They have always been huge mentors and promoters of women.

“Each of them raised the women and I think that’s extremely important. They’re always looking for opportunities to lift. That’s what I tried to do in Queens, when we hire people. staff or coaches etc. The things I can control I try to control by providing these opportunities to lift and empower women to make a difference.

Life as a Division I sporting director

Swarthout: “College athletics is a way of life. It’s not a job, it’s a way of life. So the ability to integrate yourself into campus and the campus community, and everything you do in the department and in your family, is really essential. Because, to be honest with you, it’s a 24/7 job. I get calls early in the morning, sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes late at night, every day of the week. So it’s a lifestyle, and it’s a commitment. But you’ll never find a more powerful profession when you’re surrounded by people who constantly want to improve every day.

“We are goal oriented, we want to succeed and we want to keep moving the needle. We are improving every day. Nothing ever stays the same, does it? So you get better every day. And, to be in this environment, I don’t think there is another place like this. You find collaboration and collegiality, teamwork, positivity, growth. It is a very passionate and emotional profession. The highs when that ball goes through the hoop and the lows when it goes out. There is no such thing.

Advice for girls and women in sport

Swarthout: “The first thing to do is to open as many doors as possible and go through those doors. Find mentors who will help you open those doors and lift yourself up. Find positivity in everything you do. And just keep on going. You’re going to have setbacks, but keep moving forward. And if you have a goal, go for it. Go find it and find other people who will help you support this goal…this mission and this vision that you have set for yourself.

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Minnesota native Ellis L. Williams joined the Observer in October 2021 to cover for the Carolina Panthers. Previously, he spent two years reporting on the Browns for Plain Dealer. Having escaped the cold winters, he is delighted to consume football, hoops, music and films in the queen city.

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