'Women in Sports' Profile: SMU's Kara Peterson
Peterson (kneeling) says her love of coaching, and education, began as a freshman in high school.
Peterson (kneeling) says her love of coaching, and education, began as a freshman in high school.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Twelfth in a series 

The second annual “Women in Sports” career seminar, presented by the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, will be held Saturday, Jan. 24 in Portland, Ore.

Designed for college and high school females interested in pursuing sports-related careers, the seminar will take place in the Georgia Pacific Room at Memorial Coliseum.

The event will feature panelists from a broad cross-section of occupational paths, including coaching, administration, business, marketing, media, media relations, NCAA compliance, sports medicine, ticket sales, and officiating. Attendees will have an opportunity to interact with -- and seek career advice from -- a slate of experienced sports professionals in a round-table format. 

Below is a profile on a panelist who will be featured at this year's event.


Kara Peterson, St.Martin's University
Head Volleyball Coach 

College attended: University of Washington

College majors:

BA-Political Science

BA-History MA-Education

Current position: Head Volleyball Coach, Saint Martin's University

Years in current position: 2 years

Primary job responsibilities: Manage/administer all aspects of the intercollegiate volleyball program at Saint Martin's University, which includes recruiting student-athletes; planning and conducting year-round practices; training and education for team members; managing budget, travel, and logistics; promoting the university and our volleyball program; organizing and participating in community service events; fundraising efforts; and promotion.

Things I enjoy most about my job: Working with and mentoring student athletes, both athletically and academically. Developing and reinforcing good training habits, and enjoying improvement as a result.

First job in the sports industry: Began coaching at 18 as a camp counselor, representing the University of Washington, working for my coach doing volleyball camps around the state of Washington.

Previous jobs in the sports industry: 

  • Head volleyball coach at Black Hills High School (Tumwater, Wash.) for 15 years
  • AVCA All America Committee for high school athletes for 10 years
  • Sports ambassador/head volleyball coach for People to People International
  • Friendship Games, Netherlands, 2007
  • World Sports Festival, Vienna, 2009
  • Head volleyball coach for TourneySport/Club USA Volleyball,
  • National Volleyball Tournament, 2000-2010
  • Task Force for Olympia School District Department of Athletics Task Force for Tumwater School District

A key mentor who helped me on my career path: Lisa Love, former AD at Arizona State University; former associate AD and head volleyball coach at University of Southern California; and former head volleyball coach at the University of Texas-Arlington.

Most influential person in my early professional development: Al Kovats: educator, coach, principal, retired: He was a teacher and coach at my alma mater, Shorecrest High School, and remained an admired mentor after graduation. Hired me for my first head coaching job at Redmond High School in 1990. Remains to this day a source of inspiration, and a respected mentor, someone I know supports me, believes in me and my abilities, and will always have my back. Lisa Love (mentioned above): I met Lisa when I moved to Texas and started working as a graduate assistant coach for her at UT-Arlington. She provided me a terrific opportunity in collegiate athletics, and helped to mentor and assist me in my role as a new coach. When I moved to the high school ranks, she continued to be a source of advice and inspiration to me, and will remain one of my most loved and admired role models. 

How I got involved in my professional career: My love of coaching, and ultimately my path into education, began my freshman year in high school when I worked summers with my coach at the UW conducting volleyball camps and clinics around the state. I loved to work with the young talent, and inspire them to continue to grow and develop, and to never lose sight of their goals. This led me naturally into education where I knew I could continue to coach, and work with young student-athletes and their families. I had much success at the high school level, most recently 15 years at Black Hills High School in Tumwater, Wash., that produced 12 trips to the state tournament, four district titles, seven league titles, and numerous all-state, all-region, and all-conference athletes. I am very proud of my time at Black Hills, and the opportunity I had to start a program from scratch, and see it grow and succeed based on the standards and the philosophies that we introduced, and reinforced from year to year. When the opportunity to reenter the collegiate world of volleyball presented itself, I accepted the challenge, and that has led me to my current position at Saint Martin's University.

Biggest hurdle I overcame breaking into the sports industry: The satisfaction in staying true to my own high level of personal standards, teaching those to my student-athletes, and in doing so, providing them with the tools necessary to stand up for themselves and what they believe. In my mind, the biggest hurdle for women in sport continues to be the respect and recognition received in comparison to our male counterparts. We still lag behind in receiving due respect for achievement in sport, and must continue to fight to level the playing field for all athletes, no matter our gender. 

Key attributes that have helped shape my career path: Confidence in who I am, and what I stand for. Development of a coaching and life philosophy that I am proud of, and high personal standards that I seek to maintain in all areas of my life. A willingness to continue to advocate for myself, my athletes, and my program, no matter the outcome. Listening to and observing others, to learn from their experience, and to use it to shape my own. Pride in achievement, and demonstrated effort to continue to learn and grow as a coach and a person. 

Knowing what I know now, the one thing I would do differently in college to help me on my career path: I would try to more carefully review "the big picture” rather than focus solely on the moment at hand. I would plan my career path more carefully with this in mind. I would also nurture and maintain the network of contacts I make through my diverse career experiences. These contacts have the potential to become powerful resources, but not if they do not remember who you are!

Best advice I’d give to a young female wanting to work in sports: Keep at it. Sports continues to be a "man's world", but needs to have advocates for the role that women play, and for the valuable perspective we bring to the arena. Build a personal creed, your own philosophy and intent. Know who you are, what you stand for, and do not be afraid to support, defend, and share that with others. Have confidence in your abilities, and demonstrate your value when given opportunities. Take denial/rejection as a challenge to push even harder, learn even more, and go after what you want.

If I could spend the day with one person (past or present), who would it be? That's a hard one ... so many to choose from, but I would love to have a conversation with Pat Summit. Her experience, knowledge, methods, and message would be invaluable to know, as well as the stories she could tell about her years, both on the bench, and behind the scenes, as a coach, mom, wife, and mentor for so many young women, both in her inner circle and outside of it looking in. I think I could learn much insight from my day with her.

Favorite sports team: My Saint Martin's University volleyball team, of course ... followed closely by the women of the University of Washington volleyball team. I tend to continue to bleed purple!

Favorite athlete: Don't think I can limit it to just one … all the women of sport who compete hard each and every day, in so many different venues, in so many different ways, and through so many different generations.

Most memorable sports-related moment: Winning a tournament my senior year of college vs. University of Utah in the final match. It was a moment of complete control, confidence, and confirmation of my abilities as a collegiate athlete. There was absolutely NO CHANCE that we were going to lose that match, and we didn't. We won in convincing fashion, and in complete control of our own destiny. I played the best volleyball of my career that night, and I can still remember it like it happened yesterday.

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