Meet Joan McDermott ’76, USF’s Athletic Director

By Margarita Vargas Patron, Office of Development Communications Posted Wed, 06/05/2019 - 13:45

Joan McDermott '76 began her career in athletics while she was an undergraduate at the University of San Francisco. She was part of a group of student-athletes that helped women’s club sports become institutionalized as Women’s Athletics. Her journey in athletics has led her to a new accomplishment, becoming the athletic director at the University of San Francisco.

As athletic director, McDermott is charged with creating and leading strategy to develop programs of national distinction while providing student-athletes with a world-class educational experience. She shares her journey and vision for the future with us.

I chose a career in athletics because I felt that I could make an impact and grow athletics programs. As an athletic administrator, the best way to impact the student-athlete experience is by working directly with the coaches. You can’t touch every student-athlete so it’s important to build those relationships with coaches so that every student-athlete is taken care of. At the end of the day, it’s about the student-athlete and their experience. It’s about working with coaches to impact their lives and help them grow in their profession.

At this point, I have learned over the years how important it is to have courage. As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve realized that it’s important to have courage so you can have those difficult conversations and be able to make those difficult decisions; to have the courage to lead and implement your vision. Being a female in the athletic world is not always easy, but you just learn to have the confidence in yourself and the courage to do what you need to do.

My vision is to continue to see our program grow and become more and more successful every year. The first measure of success is ensuring our student-athletes have a great experience, mature, and graduate. The other part of success is to support our mission and carry that message. As ambassadors of USF, we have a responsibility to lead as role models and put our best foot forward for ourselves, for our student-athletes, and the whole university.

I am super excited about the campaign and how well it’s progressing. Our donors and friends of the university understand what we are trying to accomplish in athletics as we finish off critical pieces for our athletic program — the Sobrato Center and the Malloy Practice Facility. Having the Sobrato Center as another facility where our student-athletes can continue to work on their craft is crucial. It’s all part of ensuring our student-athletes have a great experience, feel confident and supported. Plus, the additional facility gives us more opportunity to engage with our broader USF community.

To the next generation of women, I say own diversity and inclusion. I serve on a NCAA gender equity task force, and we look at policy, procedures, and trends. What we have found is that the percentage of women coaches has decreased. And, that is what we are trying to focus on, nationally and locally - increasing the diversity of coaches. The dream is to eradicate gender bias; create a world where we don’t have to talk about diversity and inclusion. It just is; it just happens.

My advice to women in this field is to be open and have a willingness to grow. Always continue to find ways to grow. It’s important to love what you are doing and somehow find some balance in your life, whatever that looks like to you. But find time for yourself, understand what you are doing, and how to move from there.  

Learn more about athletics at USF