2010 to present – Chief Executive Officer, Patti Phillips

Patti Phillips has served as the CEO of Women Leaders in College Sports since April of 2010. During her time as CEO, the association has seen triple-digit growth in membership, a renewed focus on advancing and empowering women in athletics, a brand revamp and name change, and solidifying itself as the premier leadership association for women in athletics.

Under Patti’s leadership, the organization changed its mission statement and purpose to focus on leadership, believing that the organization will advocate for change in the industry by creating pathways for more women in leadership. Under this focus area, women that want to advance into leadership roles have more concrete programming, information, and access to hirers and search firms than ever before, and as a result, in 2018 the industry saw its largest number of women hired in influential college sports positions with 68 women hired.

In 2017, Patti led the organization through a rebrand evolving NACWAA to Women Leaders in College Sports. This new name and refreshed brand aimed to better reflect the status of the organization and its members, and to be more inclusive of all women working in college sports and adjacent sport sectors across the country.

In the words of Patti: “As our organization has grown and evolved, the “Women Leaders in College Sports” name builds upon our foundation while also working to resonate with our increasingly diverse membership spanning across roles, departments and industries. Our membership and offerings have grown so it only makes sense for our brand to grow and evolve as we look to the next 40 years.”

The name change speaks to one way in which Patti and the National Office team has broadened the reach of the organization and expanded its leadership and inclusion efforts. Patti and the team also developed and implemented the Women of Color Initiative in 2015, which addresses the needs and barriers women of color experience in relation to access, advancement, and retention in collegiate athletics. Through intentional programming, the creation of Women of Color scholarships, and a concerted effort to engage more women of color in programming, committees and speaking opportunities, Women Leaders in College Sports has diversified its membership and assisted with increasing the pipeline and creating exposure for women of color in the industry.

Another focus under Patti’s leadership has been to not only engage and touch all members at every level in the industry, in every stage of their career, and in as many different communities as possible, but to create an energy of inclusiveness and support that extends beyond the active membership, and includes men. She says, “Our purpose is to affect the power and reach of Women Leaders in College Sports and create a positive impact on the industry at large. In order to do that, we need to create an inclusive membership that brings together women and men of all backgrounds and identities to support, mentor and champion one another.” 

Under Patti’s direction, the national convention attendance has grown by over 250% and membership has increased by over 128%.

Additional highlights during Patti’s tenure:

  • Elevated the brand to one of the most prominent and powerful women’s organizations in the industry
  • Implemented the Advancement Initiative, which connects women with search firms and positions them for leadership opportunities
  • Created platforms for member celebration and support, such as:
    • Division l, ll, and lll NEXT (Network of Extraordinary Talent) events
    • Membership Circles
    • Member Happy Hours
    • Rising Stars Program
  • Established the Executive Leadership Track in 2016 in conjunction with the National Convention
  • Launched the Women Leaders Podcast in 2017
  • More than doubled staff size and operating budget
WLCS Chief Executive Officer: 2010 - Present

Patti Phillips
Chief Executive Officer

Patti Phillips has dedicated her career to coaching, mentoring, and inspiring women at all levels and in all industries. As the CEO of Women Leaders in College Sports—the nation’s premier organization that develops, connects, and advances women working in collegiate athletics—she uses the keen insights she’s gathered from her relationships with search firms, hiring committees, and university presidents to coach up women and help them grow in their careers.

Prior to joining the association, Phillips served as the executive director of the Women’s Intersport Network, based in Kansas City, Missouri, for 11 years. WIN for KC, a nonprofit dedicated to leadership development in girls and women through participation in sports, saw extraordinary growth and success under her leadership. Additionally, Phillips was a color analyst for ESPN, FOX Sports Midwest, Sooner Sports, and Metro Sports television broadcasts of collegiate women’s basketball and volleyball games.

Earlier in her career, Phillips worked for the NCAA as the CHAMPS/Life Skills program coordinator and prior to that was the head women’s basketball and volleyball coach at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas. There, she inherited a losing basketball program and transformed it into a regional power; the team received its first national ranking in school history with Phillips at the helm.

Phillips was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and both the Baker University and O’Hara High School athletic halls of fame in 2011. She received the NCAA’s Champions of Diversity Award in 2015, and the Petey National Leadership Award in 2017. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City, and as past president for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Phillips received her degree with honors from Baker University and earned her master’s in athletic administration and sport psychology from the University of Kansas.