ONE OF A KIND

BY BILL MARTIN
Reporter Sports Editor

MILANO—When Milano Superintendent Robbie Westbrook appointed Wendy King as Milano’s new athletic director three weeks ago, he had no idea what a monumental feat it was.

Gender certainly had no part in the selection. King was the right person for the job, plain and simple.

But, in a state with 1,311 schools, King became just one of 20 women athletic directors in Texas.

“Wendy is very adept at handling athletic endeavors and can handle administrative duties very well and I am confident in handing this over to her,” Westbrook said.

A 23-year coaching veteran, King, 43, had been acting as women’s athletic coordinator for the past two seasons, while head football coach Craig Jentsch was taking care of the boys side.

When Jentsch decided to give up coaching last month, it caused a shift in the already short-handed staff.

Chad LaGrone was elevated to head football coach and King was named athletic director.


Wendy King has won over 450 games as Milano’s volleyball coach and been to the state tournament four times. 
Reporter/Bill Martin Wendy King has won over 450 games as Milano’s volleyball coach and been to the state tournament four times. Reporter/Bill Martin LaGrone also serves as head softball coach and assistant girls basketball coach.

King coaches volleyball and helps out in track.

According to the Texas High School Athletic Director Executive Director Rusty Dowling, there are 53 women athletic and assistant athletic directors in the state of Texas and 20 are athletic directors.

Make that 21 with King

“I’m not surprised by 20,” King said. “I have worked in schools for 23 years and I have never run across one personally.”

“The number has increased significantly,” Dowling said. “For many years in the multi-school districts, it was a head football coach who was elevated to the athletic director’s position when he was ready to get out of coaching.

“In most cases he would hire a woman to be his top assistant. It seemed like all the men athletic directors all retired about the same time and, justifiably so, the district promoted the next in line to become the district athletic director.”

“It would almost be impossible to hire a football coach with a woman athletic director,” King said. “For the most part, your job is dependent on winning and losing so you want to be in control and that’s very understandable.

“That doesn’t happen here. Coaches don’t get fired for winning or losing. That’s not what we have here.

“Now don’t get me wrong, we want to win, but we’re always more con- cerned with creating productive citizens than wins or losses.

“We always look for coaches and teachers and measure the substance of someone’s character when we hire.

“I feel comfortable in leading our programs. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if part of the job was firing people.”

King—who teaches math at Milano—is no stranger to athletics. She was a star at Milano in the mid 80s and still holds the school record for points in a game with 48.

Her husband Alvie is a former coach at Milano, who is the head baseball coach at nearby Mumford.

Her oldest son Aubrie is the Class A basketball player of the year and just led Mumford to a state championship.

King has two more sons, Kyle, who will be a freshman at Milano and Ben who will be in the eighth grade—both active in athletics.

Chances are, she would have been at every Milano sporting event anyway.

King’s volleyball teams have gone to the playoffs 14 years in a row and made four straight appearances in the state tournament.

“I didn’t go looking for this job, Mr. Westbrook presented it to me,” King said. “I am doing it to serve the district. I think it can work because of the students we have here.

“There was no reason for me to turn it down.” Trailblazers

Mike Blackburn, executive director of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, said women make up 15 percent of the group’s 8,500 members.

As far as anyone knows, there are no women athletic directors at the Class A level (new Class 2A) out of 204 schools, so King may be the first, especially a school that plays football.

There are five prominent directors in the Houston area alone.

There’s Marmion Dambrino (Houstin ISD); Debbie Decker (Katy); Teresa Anderson (Klein); Paige Hershey (Spring Branch); Pamela Lea was at New Caney but moved over to Cleburne in 2013.

“You are seeing women who were groomed for these positions, so it’s a natural flow,” Decker told the Houston Chronicle. “In a way, it’s coincidental. Older ADs retire and new ones come in.”

“You position yourself and keep learning and so if the position becomes available, you’re qualified to step in,” said Anderson. “It’s a natural process.”

“It’s a tough job,” said Dambrino. “It’s tough for a man. It’s a tough job for a woman. Whoever can handle the tough jobs will be in position to do so.”

Kim Cousins, now a high school principal in the Austin area, was the first woman in the Houston area to oversee a multi-school program at Clear Creek in the 1990s.

Johanna Denson, one of the state’s longest-tenured female ADs with positions in Tyler and Waco, just accepted the AD job in the Pflugerville school district.

Sandra Howell, the former AD at Galveston who now works at Class 4A Little Elm in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, is secretary of the Texas High School Athletic Directors Association, and Sherri Stice, assistant AD in Cy-Fair, is the Houston area’s regional director.

Howell had 13 years of experience before moving to the single high chool position in Little Elm, at Galveston and Alvin.

All have taken different paths to the top.

Most of the major school districts have several assistant athletic directors and many are women.

Possibily the most legendary women’s athletic director was Ellie Noack, who helmed the Austin Independent School District for 20 years.

Noack was a no-nonsence leader and well respected around the state.

She is one of six women in the THSADA Hall of Honor.

KING FILE

Age—43
Family—Husband Alvie, sons
Aubrie, Kyle and Ben.
High School—Milano (1988).
Col lege— Sam Houston
(1991).
Coaches—Volleyball, track.
Teaches—Math.
Hobbies— Home improvement projects.
Honors—448-161 record as
volleyball coach. Team has
won 13 district titles and
gone to playoffs 14 straight
years including four straight
trips to state tournament.
Still holds Milano girls scoring record in basketball with
48 points.

WOMEN IN CHARGE

Here is a list of women
athletic directors in the
state of Texas:
Director District
Debbie Decker Katy
Teresa Anderson Klein
Paige Hershey Spring Branch
Marmion Dambrino Houston
Pamela Lea Cleburne
Johanna Denson Pflugerville
Sandra Howell Little Elm
Paula Gonzalez McAllen
Susan Elza Northwest ISD
Debbie Weems Mansfield
Gina Farmer Cedar Hill
OJ Kemp Arlington
Sheila Henderson Lockhart
Krista Malmstrom* Humble
Brenda Marshall Corpus
Christi
*Malmstrom is co-athletic
director with Troy Kite.


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