'Women in Sports' Profile: Erica Quam

Monday, December 8, 2014

Latest 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. In addition, the seminar will include a "professional development segment" and networking reception presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

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


Erica Quam, The Coaching Experience
President and Founder 

College attended: Indiana University

College major: BS in Biology

Current position: President & Founder of The Coaching Experience

Years in current position: 3

Primary Job Responsibilities:

  • Helping coaches, athletes and teams develop skills and achieve results
  • Focus primarily on personal development, leadership development, and improving communication skills
  • Organize and facilitate coaching retreat weekends throughout the year
  • Develop online training programs for coaches to access throughout the year
  • Connect with a variety of coaches across sports to create networks of support for one another
  • Write a weekly eZine called “Who Coaches You?” to give coaches ideas, inspiration, tips and team activities

Things I enjoy most about my job:

  • I love hearing the creative and inspiring ways that coaches are working with their student-athletes.
  • I enjoy connecting coaches with one another and then hearing how they are reaching out for help and supporting one another throughout their seasons.
  • I really like organizing retreats for coaches to be able to unplug from their normal routines and focus on themselves.
  • I love teaching them things that they can apply directly to their teams.

First job in the sports industry: Swim Camp Counselor at University of Texas Swim Camps, 1994

Previous jobs in the sports industry: 

  • Student Assistant Swim Coach at Indiana University, 1996
  • Volunteer Assistant Swim Coach at Southern Methodist University, 1997
  • Assistant Swim Coach at Southern Methodist University, 1998-2002
  • Assistant Swim Coach with Dallas Aquatic Masters Team
  • Head Swim Coach at Washington State University, 2002-2011

A key mentor who helped me on my career path: Steve Collins, the head women's swim coach at Southern Methodist University. Steve brought me onto his staff as a volunteer assistant coach. I had very little coaching experience so this was a real honor to get a chance to work with a team that had consistently placed in the top four in the nation in swimming. I was there for one year before I had the opportunity to be the full-time paid assistant. Steve taught me a lot about the X's and O's of coaching. He taught me that an assistant coach has valuable insight and he was open to my feedback and my opinions. He also was very transparent with why he would make the decisions he made and how I could begin to think like a head coach.

Most influential person in my early professional development: Susan Teeter, the head women's swimming coach at Princeton University, invited me to be a part of a women's coaching summit. I was one of a few assistant coaches in a group of mostly head coaches. We came together one weekend each year to share our accomplishments, challenges, and work on ourselves. Getting plugged into this group was integral in me having the confidence in myself to take on more responsibilities and feel ready to take on a head coaching job in my mid-twenties. We are still meeting once a year -- this will be our 20th year together.

How I got involved in my professional career: I had an assistant coach who asked me the question, "Have you ever thought about coaching?" when I was a team captain of the women's swim team in college. I really hadn't considered going into coaching until she planted this seed simply by asking this question.

Biggest hurdle I overcame breaking into the sports industry: The biggest hurdle I overcame was feeling completely burned out after five years as an assistant coach. I didn't do enough to take care of myself. I didn't ask for time off. I didn't set boundaries and limits and worked myself until I was overwhelmed. I was able to find more balance as a head coach although the responsibilities were greater. I was in charge of my schedule and felt it important to integrate downtime for myself, my assistant coaches, as well as my athletes.

Key attributes that have helped shape my career path: Dedication to always be learning, growing, and evolving. Being open to different ways of getting from point A to point B -- there is never just one way of doing things. Working on myself to be the best person I can be so that I can help others achieve their best. Being an active listener and holding my own judgments back until I've heard someone out

Knowing what I know now, the one thing I would do differently in college to help me on my career path: There's not much I would do differently because I know all of my experiences added up have made me who I am. There's value to doing all the right things to set yourself up and there's also value in doing some of the wrong things. I ended up switching from pre-med to focusing on teaching in college when I was a sophomore. Looking back I could have taken even more leadership classes and really looked more seriously at how I could apply teaching skills to coaching.

Best advice I’d give to a young female wanting to work in sports: Don't hesitate to ask for help and get support. Find a mentor or a few people who you admire who are willing to answer your questions.

If I could spend the day with one person (past or present), who would it be? I would love to spend one day with my mentor Jean Freeman, who coached for over 30 years at the University of Minnesota. Jean had so many amazing stories spanning from pre-Title IX to post-Title IX and saw so many things over the course of her career. When I have a hard day or struggle with a decision, I always ask myself what Jean would say. I had an opportunity to be in a women's coaching summit with Jean and got to know her very well. We would have heated discussions over controversial issues going on in our sport and she would always respond with unique insights and an interesting perspective.

Favorite sports team: Seattle Seahawks

Favorite athlete: Missy Franklin

Most memorable sports-related moment: My first year as head coach at Washington State University, I got stuck in a blizzard with my assistant coach and our swimmer on our way to NCAA's. We were late to the competition and she missed her first event. She was a senior. It was her first national championship meet and her last opportunity to become an All-American, which had been a goal she had for all four years. When we arrived -- after spending 72 hours in airports and hotels to get to the meet -- she ended up achieving All-American status in the 100 butterfly, placing 15th in the prelims and 16th in the finals. She did awesome!