From Athlete to Athletic Director: A Profile of Amy Backus

What path takes a girl from the basketball court of an Ohio high school to a university athletic director’s office? Amy Backus’ career journey wove from high school basketball star in Vermillion, Ohio, to student-athlete at Central Michigan University, to college coach and now to an AD position at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. At each stop on the path she has strived for personal achievement, institutional success, and especially to make a difference in the lives of others.

Amy Backus

Amy Backus

Backus shares her thoughts on becoming a leader in college sports in a recent Witt/Kieffer Leader Profile. Here below is an abbreviated version of that interview.

How did you become a leader? What’s been your recipe for professional success?

Backus: I had strong role models in my family and early college education. I was encouraged from a young age that I did not have limits in what I could do with my life. As for my recipe for success . . . it has been a core value of always doing things the right way. Play by the rules. Don’t cheat. Don’t lie. Don’t make excuses, be honest and be yourself. These values will serve you well.

Elaborate upon the following phrase: “Good leadership requires…”

Backus: Patience! It takes time to change culture and time for coaches and staff to learn your leadership style, especially after a change. Good leadership requires understanding the history and celebrating the traditions of an institution. Listen, don’t jump to conclusions and don’t make hasty decisions. Careful and thoughtful decision-making is crucial to good leadership and making equitable decisions.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever gotten?

Backus: A former boss of mine (an athletic director) said that everyone should really make a list of institutions that you would work for based on their priorities and values. Work hard to align yourself with those values and don’t be lured in another direction just to take a job if it is possible.

Witt/Kieffer is proud to have served Case Western Reserve University in the recruitment of its athletic director.


By Paul Thomas, Strategic Communications Leader

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