In the past 30 years, only two women have been named the Missouri Athletic Director of the Year, and Jennifer Brooks – the current athletic director of Oakland’s Ursuline Academy – is the second.
Since 1996, Brooks has been the backbone of the academy’s athletic program: watching and scheduling games, supervising more than 40 coaches and 30 teams, acclimating staff to the athletic department. “She generously takes on statewide leadership roles through MSHSAA [the Missouri State High School Activities Association], speaks at professional conferences for athletic directors and has even organized a professional growth and support network of female athletic directors nationally,” says Mark Michalski, Ursuline’s principal.
Brooks says she is honored to be a part of the lives of the young women in Ursuline’s athletic program. Through her position, she hopes for “young women to see other women in places of leadership and to model what it is like to be a female leader.”
Brooks explains that her recent recognition makes her feel more visible in a male-dominated field. “Initially, I was shocked,” she says of the Missouri Athletic Director of the Year announcement. “I thought there was no way I, as a female, would win this award. Oftentimes in my career, I have felt invisible or felt that I didn’t belong. This changes everything.”
Looking toward the future, Brooks hopes that this award will “make the journey for other women – whether they are my student-athletes or an athletic director from across the country – a little easier because I already shattered some glass for them.”
In addition to her robust career, Brooks started an organization called the Global Community of Women in High School Sports to create a space for women in sports to “network, learn and empower each other.” After Brooks started her organization, many women reached out to her in gratitude, and Brooks shared that she has also “had men reach out to me wanting to learn more about how they can better support their female coaches and other female athletic directors.”
Michalski shares what he believes to be the key to Brooks’ impact on Ursuline and on the regional high school sports industry at large: “Being an excellent athletic director means being an excellent teacher, and Mrs. Brooks is just that.”