Kenyon’s new Director of Athletics Jill McCartney, like many current and former students here, was an English major. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, her appreciation of English and the academic rigor found in all of Kenyon’s disciplines was a major reason for her interest in the position. “I knew all about the “Kenyon Review” and just so much about the reputation of the College. So for me, it was like, ‘wow, this would be fantastic,’” she said.
McCartney — who was hired in early 2019– was also intrigued by the opportunity to make an impact on a broader portion of the student body. Her job is not only to direct athletics, but also to coordinate fitness and recreation for students. These elements weren’t a part of her responsibilities at Doane University (Neb.) and Washburn University (Kan.), where she was athletic director and assistant athletics director, respectively. “I like that new challenge as part of the job because we do serve the entire campus, the community, and we serve it in the Kenyon Athletic Center, which is a fantastic resource,” McCartney said.
In her short time at Kenyon, McCartney has worked to bolster fitness and wellness programs. The Athletic Department is also hoping to strengthen their partnership with the Cox Health and Counseling Center’s “Eat Well, Sleep Well, Be Well” initiative.
Another area McCartney discussed as a focus is revamping intramurals. McCartney believes intramural activities are a low-pressure environment where students can use exercise as a study break.
In addition to enhancing intramural options, McCartney is working on a new resource center to make it easier for students to discover which sorts of physical activity work for them. She believes athletics in any form are crucial for success in the classroom, especially during taxing periods like midterms and finals. “Your professor can’t say, ‘hey, I need you to go take a lap while you’re studying [for finals]’,” she said.
As she looks out her window at the hill construction project, McCartney envisions a bright future for Kenyon athletics. She thinks the construction will eventually help accomplish her goal of forging a stronger connection between the KAC and the broader Kenyon community. “It will help make it more enticing to come down, even if it’s just to pop in for a little while,” she said.
Of course, the project also features a new athletic field, specifically the Benson Bowl. With the new facility, teams will have the ability to practice more frequently; previously, multiple teams shared McBride Field during each season.
Fairly allocating resources amongst Kenyon teams has been one of her most difficult tasks. A key distinction in the process, McCartney pointed out, is the difference between equal and equitable. “Not every sport is built the same. There are only so many field hockey teams in the country. How much do you have to travel compared to another sport where there may be lots more in this area? Then you also have to factor in how competitive the sports are. So if you’re a top 10 team every year, to compete with teams that are your level, you might have to travel a little more,” she said.
McCartney has many responsibilities, but perhaps her favorite is watching students pursue their interests at the KAC. “The most enjoyable part of the job is watching student athletes do what they love to do, or students in general do what they love to do.”