Shields 'A Servant Leader'
While there weren't as many playing opportunities in the early-1980s as female athletes have today, she said, "I just loved the competition. My dad was the principal of Southeast of Saline, and whenever the car left for an eighth grade volleyball game or a JV football game, I wanted to be in that car with him. I loved to just go and watch with dad." If not watching, Shields was playing with her three brothers, whether it be hoops, or football, or any other game with a ball. Laughing, Shields said, "I don't think they would have said it at the time, but I think they would say I somewhat held my own." Shields, a native of the central Kansas community of Assaria, spent one year on the basketball team at the University of Kansas before transferring to Barton County Community College, and finally to Central Florida where she finished her playing career as MVP of the team in her senior season, and where she got her first taste of coaching. Her coaching career would continue at North Georgia College, and for five years at Wichita State before entering the administrative world of sports with the Shockers for one year, and then at K-State for the past 11 years. Shields' initial assignment with the Wildcats was in the area of academics where she rode herd over the 100-plus members of the K-State football team to the point of knowing every class, every grade and every upcoming test on any given day for every individual in uniform. "There was never a dull day and every day was different," said Shields, who obtained a Liberal Arts degree from UCF in 1990. "With coach (Bill) Snyder, nothing is going to fall through the cracks. He's an incredible individual. He's demanding, but at the end of the day, you understand why. "Professionally, I grew as much during my years working with Coach Snyder than at any time in my life. It's just about always doing things the right way," said Shields. Smiling, she continued, "With Coach Snyder, you better be prepared. He wanted you to have answers and you learned to be on time. If you're not five minutes early, then you're late. I think 'Cat Time' will be with me forever." Last year, athletics director John Currie elevated Shields to Senior Woman Administrator, plus she is in charge of the Student Services portion of the athletic department, and oversees the equestrian and track and field programs. With a nine-member staff, Student Services includes academic counseling, the tutorial program and life-skills area for the overall athletic program. That starts with tracking initial eligibility and progress towards a degree, but also includes a dose of personal counseling. "Even though there aren't signs on the door, we do a lot of counseling," said Shields. "There is a lot of stress on the D-I student-athlete, and there are times when they need extra support. Part of it is just showing an interest and talking about career opportunities, or it can be as simple as just asking how mom and dad are doing. "So many people reached back to me to pull me along during my career," said Shields. "I'd be pretty disappointed in myself if I didn't do the same for today's student-athlete." With a focus on the female athlete today, Shields calls the progress from when she played 20 years ago "tremendous." "I think a university today understands that if you market women's athletics and fund women's athletics appropriately, you can have a good following," said Shields. "Our women's volleyball atmosphere is unbelievable in Ahearn Field House. In women's basketball, we had lines out the door and a full arena every time we played." Shields understands that the women's game attracts more families at one end, and retirees at the other, but with all she says, "Our K-State fans have a true appreciation for women's athletics and how they present themselves on and off the playing field. "There's nothing wrong with having a separate identity and a separate marketing plan," Shields continued. "I hear at various meetings that we need to be exactly like the men, but I don't follow that. We're two different animals. Yes, women's athletics needs to be funded and a marketing plan needs to be in place, but we shouldn't constantly compare ourselves with what the men are doing around the country." We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at email@example.com.