Sawyer says ‘it’s never too late to get involved’



Dr. Tonya Sawyer, Eastern’s Assistant Athletic Director and Compliance & Senior Woman Administrator, speaks to Eastern volleyball player, Kate Dean, in her office.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

 Over the last few years, more women have gained roles in the sports industry. While there is still progress to make, women have been more accepted in the industry.

Assistant athletic director of compliance and senior woman administrator Dr. Tonya Sawyer said she encourages women to chase their dreams of working in the sports industry.

Sawyer has several things she does within her job. As the director of compliance, she makes sure the teams and athletes at EIU are abiding by the NCAA rules. 

As the senior woman administrator, she aids in supporting the women athletes with nearly anything they need such as help with Title IX, with their scholarships, or with housing issues. 

Sawyer is also part of different committees on campus.

After being hired last March, Sawyer was happy to become the senior woman administrator for EIU athletics.

“I was excited because for me, it gave me that next step in my career,” Sawyer said. “With that role and being able to make a difference in this position, I knew that there was room to help others grow and to be a leader, especially for the female demographic, for our department and for others.”

She said she uses her position at EIU to help empower and lead young females to help them with any level of success they are looking for whether it is academically, athletically, or in anything else they wish to achieve.

“It’s a great leadership role,” Sawyer said. “It’s wonderful to be in a role that you can lead young females and lead other staff to be in a position to empower them to help them be more successful. To set an example is an honor.”

She said she feels privileged to hold the role of senior woman administrator even with its challenges.

“It’s great and some days I feel like it’s also kind of daunting because there’s a lot of expectations and there’s a lot of responsibility,” Sawyer said. “And to know that there are individuals looking up to you and that need you for whatever it might be, it can be a lot, but I enjoy it, it’s a great challenge for me.”

Sawyer said she receives support from those above her so that she can support those who look for her leadership. 

She said the athletic department works as a team to support all of its athletes and staff members.

“I also have great leadership above me,” Sawyer said. “My athletic director is extremely supportive and is there for me 100%. You have to have a great team in place, you have to have a great administration on the university side as well. It takes everyone on campus to do this. It’s not just me, it’s all of us.”

In all she does, Sawyer said her favorite thing is seeing the athletes being successful in life, academically, and athletically.

“Seeing the athletes being successful and that success isn’t defined with wins and losses,” Sawyer said. “It’s if they do well on a paper, if they accomplished one of their own goals, solving a problem. I think that ultimately for me, what I enjoy is seeing their success. When they’re happy, I’m happy. It’s an added bonus when they’re winning.”

Sawyer said that it is important to empower women and that in today’s world the support and empowerment has been better than ever.

“We’re in a time, especially with celebrating the history of Title IX, the 50th anniversary,” Sawyer said. “We’re really in a great position to support one another and to showcase that we’ve come a long way in women’s athletics. You can see that day in and day out with our females in sports right now and I think they’ve really embraced it.”

She said that as more women coaches come in and there is a higher population of women in sports, things are getting better. 

She also said she encourages all to take on higher positions because that is becoming more of a possibility every day.

Sawyer said her piece of advice for any girls or women who have aspirations of working in sports is that it is never too late.

“It’s never too late to get involved,” Sawyer said. “Participate, do what makes you happy. If you have goals, if you don’t have goals, set them. It’s worth it.”

She said as sports brings people together, it’s a good place to get involved in any aspect that you enjoy the most.

“It’s never too late and there are so many opportunities, especially from a career standpoint, to get involved,” Sawyer said. “And more and more today, women are taking those roles and especially those executive roles.”

She said it is encouraging for young women and women in general to see more people like them in any role in sports, but especially the leadership roles.

There are a plethora of ways to be involved in the sports industry and women are slowly but surely making their way into these well-deserved roles. 

Sawyer said any girl or woman who has dreams of working in the sports industry needs to go for it and chase what they want in life.

“It’s never too late to try something that they thought they could never do even if they can’t play the sport,” Sawyer said. “It’s not always about participating, it’s about trying something different and getting involved in that space.”


Kate Stevens can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]