The following has been re-printed from Iris with permission from the author.
Miller reflects on the meaning of the award and on the evolution of women in sports
For her outstanding accomplishments in athletics, Jane Miller, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Programs at U.Va., will receive the 2014 Elizabeth Zintl Leadership Award at a ceremony on Sept. 18.
Presented annually by the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center at U.Va. to a woman employee of the University, the award commemorates Elizabeth Zintl, the former Chief of Staff in the Office of the President at the University. The award honors the high degree of professionalism, creativity and commitment that characterized Zintl’s significant contributions to the University.
Miller, who has worked for the Athletics Department since 1983, began her career as a coach for field hockey and women’s lacrosse. In her 12 years of coaching, with a record of 145-44 and two national championship titles, she is the winningest coach in U.Va.’s women’s lacrosse history. In 1995, she retired from coaching to take on a full-time administrative role. Since then, she has been inducted into the state, regional and national Lacrosse Hall of Fames, elected Chair of the NCAA Division I Championship/Sports Management Cabinet, and served as Chair of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame Committee (women’s division).
Throughout her career, Miller has been a fervent advocate for women’s equity in sports and the University community. She has participated in the Women’s Center Advisory Council and the Women’s Leadership Council, which both promote an equitable gender climate at U.Va. In 1999, she was presented the Woman of Achievement Award from the U.Va. Women’s Faculty and Professional Association. Last year, she was awarded the Claudia Lane Dodson Equity Award for her unwavering commitment to furthering gender equality in high school sports. These numerous achievements have made her a role model not only for female athletes, but for all women.
In a 2002 Iris Magazine interview, Jane Miller reflected upon her career in the Athletics Department and the changing role of women in sports. Twelve years later, she sat down with us again to discuss how her views on these subjects have since changed.
Check out this link to read her 2002 interview with Iris Magazine in its entirety.
First and foremost, congratulations on receiving the 2014 Elizabeth Zintl Leadership Award! What does this award mean to you?
I am honored and humbled to receive this award. While I didn’t know Elizabeth Zintl, I learned from others what a wonderful person she was and how much she gave to this University. Receiving an award named after her that has already been given to a prestigious list of women, such as Pat Lampkin, Sylvia Terry, Shamim Sisson, Carolyn Callahan, Sharon Hostler and Carol Wood, all these amazing women who have been role models, mentors and support systems for me, is something that I would never have envisioned and is an honor I will always treasure.
Last time you sat down with Iris was in 2002, you discussed how, since the 80s, women have had to overcome many gender-based obstacles in athletics. How have women continued to make progress toward equality in sports in the last 12 years?
Since 2002, women have made significant gains in leadership in athletics but have also lost ground in other areas.
The number of women athletic directors continues to grow at all levels. Most recently, Sandy Barbour was named Athletics Director at powerhouse Penn State University. The number of women commissioners has also made a major upswing over recent years. In particular, our own Val Ackerman (College ’81) became the first female commissioner at a [Bowl Championship Series] school in 2013. The increase of women in such leadership roles is extremely important because they are the ones who hire people and make big decisions.
At the same time, the number of female coaches has dropped at an alarming rate. In women’s basketball, for instance, there have been some controversial hires recently where men are landing jobs even though they have no experience in coaching women. In one case the man who was hired hadn’t coached the sport in 20 years. That is very discouraging, especially to women who have given their life to the sport and even some men who have spent their whole career coaching women’s basketball.
Having said this, however, it is probably the best of times for female athletes. Their opportunities have grown significantly along with the resources to support their experiences. The skill level is truly amazing. We can look at our own student-athletes to see such talent. Overall, while we have made both gains and losses, today, women are in the best place that they’ve ever been in the field of athletics.
In reference to the 2002 Iris interview, please explain more about why the involvement of women in sports is important in terms of individual growth and for all women, collectively.
Sports give women the same benefits that they give to men. All the lessons we espouse to our student athletes are the same across both genders. Being in positions of leadership, learning to work with diverse individuals, planning toward a common goal – these are all benefits of participation in sports.
In addition, the physical and mental advantages of being active are invaluable. Here in Charlottesville, we see people of all ages, shapes and sizes, participating in healthy activities because we know that activity and sport leads to a healthier life. The better you feel about yourself, the more productive you are in your work, your relationships, and your life as a whole.
Any other final thoughts you would like to add?
I truly am awed to be in the company of the women who have received the Elizabeth Zintl Award and to be a part of her legacy.
Story by: Alaina Segura