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Mar 12, 2022

Experience Evolved to Leadership

Experience Evolved to Leadership

We have seen many former Clemson student-athletes enter the coaching profession in recent years, but a much smaller number have gone into athletic administration. One former Clemson great who has flourished in coaching and administration serves a Division I school just 40 miles from Clemson.

Former All-ACC volleyball player and Clemson Athletic Hall of Famer Jodi Steffes is in her second year at Furman University as Associate Athletic Director for Administration and Development. She is also the program’s Senior Woman Administrator. If that is not enough, she is also the sport administrator for men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s tennis. Now in her sixth year at Furman, the native of Illinois worked for the Paladin Club in fundraising and handled other administrative roles when she started in 2015.

         Steffes was an assistant coach under Jolene Hoover at Clemson for two terms over a 10-year span, a period of time when she also earned a master’s degree from Clemson. In 2014, she worked as an Assistant Director of IPTAY, working primarily with the Tiger Lettermen’s Association under Bob Mahony.   

That is a pretty experienced resume.

         “I loved working at Clemson as a coach and then in IPTAY,” said Steffes. “But, as much as I love Clemson, I thought I needed to spread my wings and work at another school to gain more experience.”

         It had to be a tough decision for Steffes to “spread her wings” because she had so much success at Clemson. As a student-athlete, she was the first volleyball player in Clemson history to be named to the All-Region team four times. Additionally she was a two-time Academic All-ACC selection and made an All-ACC team four times. Steffes was named the ACC Rookie of the Year in 1998 and was a four-year starter, including 1999, when the team posted a program-best 31-3 record.

         The honors continued for Steffes after her playing days. In 2002, she was named to the ACC 50th Anniversary Volleyball Team, and in 2009, she became just the third volleyball player to get inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame.  

         After a successful year coaching at the high school level, Head Coach Jolene Hoover offered Steffes a full-time position as an assistant coach. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it at first,” said Steffes, “but I loved the sport and loved Jolene.”

Steffes was recruiting coordinator under Hoover in her second stint and helped the program to its third straight NCAA bid in 2010. In addition to learning the coaching profession under Hoover, she also took notes from Clemson administrators Bill D’Andrea and Barbara Kennedy-Dixon.

         “About the seventh year of coaching, I started to get the itch to go into administration. I wanted to be involved with all the sports. 

         “I learned so much from Jolene about coaching and all that is involved in it from an organizational standpoint. But I also learned so much from Bill and Barbara when it came to their roles.

         “They were both outstanding in terms of details. I remember getting texts from Barbara after a big win on the road when I was an assistant coach and how important it was for Bill and Barbara to show their support for the teams at home games.  

         “Nearly every day, something comes up, good or bad, where I reflect on how they handled a situation when I was a student or a coach or an administrator at Clemson.”

         One area she could not have possibly gained experience in when she was at Clemson was how to handle a pandemic. As is the case with all administrators and coaches around the country, she has had to learn on the fly.

“COVID-19 has been a challenge but allowed people to tap into themselves and be more flexible,” said Steffes. “You can control some things, and some things you can’t. It was very hard in the beginning, when we dropped a couple of sports and had to postpone spring sports. We had to learn to communicate in different forms, and that took some getting used to.”

I concluded our interview with the obvious question. “Do you aspire to be an athletic director someday?”  

 “I am in my dream job right now. I really enjoy the SWA role and working with all the sports. I have always enjoyed being a good teammate in a supporting role. Right now, I want to gain more experience and master the role I am in.

“But never say never.”