Athletic director pursues balance

Sports have remained one of the constants in Robyn Daugherty’s life.

It started with little league softball and pick-up games of basketball and volleyball. When she officially joined school teams in middle school, her mother was in the stands for almost every game. Her father, an alcoholic, was not.

Yet she said she never remembers thinking her father’s addiction was unfair to her.

“When you’re raised in that, you don’t question it and you don’t talk about it,” Daugherty explained.

Though neither of her parents were Christians, they believed it was important for their daughters to be in church every Sunday. Daugherty gave her life to Christ in second grade at AWANAs and continued to be involved in their local church until she graduated.

After graduation, Daugherty received a scholarship to a community college to play volleyball.

“I still remember during my sophomore year flipping through a College Life magazine with my friend and seeing John Brown University,” said Daugherty.

In 1989 while she was working at DaySpring, the University called and asked Daugherty to work part time as the volleyball coach. She said yes.

Ten years later, however, more changes came for Daugherty when DaySpring was sold and her division moved to Colorado Springs. Not wanting to move, Daugherty quit.

“I never thought I would leave my full-time job and career at DaySpring,” said Daugherty. “And still when I moved to coaching I didn’t want to become an AD.”

Slowly though, Daugherty took on more Athletic Director responsibilities.

Allie Rankin was one of the last volleyball players at John Brown to be coached by Daugherty. Rankin transferred from Arkansas Tech, where the assistant volleyball coach was a JBU alumnus who was supportive of her transfer, unlike her head coach. Rankin visited the University in March of her freshman year and connected with the team and school.

“There is so much more to volleyball (than winning),” said Rankin.

“One thing I said when I transferred is that I wanted volleyball to be fun again,” said Rankin.

When the current Director retired, Daugherty took over the position as well as retaining her coaching job.

“For a while there it was like a revolving door,” joked Daugherty about the many positions she had to fill.

Among many things, Daugherty has hired 10 head coaches for the nine sports offered at JBU during her time as director.

At the University, Daugherty started to see her desperate need to balance her career, her personal life and her spiritual life.

Shortly before going on a mission trip to Guatemala with the volleyball team, Daugherty felt called to set up an online account at eHarmony.

Her career-driven life had previously stopped her from actively pursuing a romantic relationship.

But she soon had her first date with the man who eventually became her husband.

“It was the best thing I have ever done,” said Daugherty. “We have so much fun together.”

Tim, her husband, lived in Claremont, Okla., when they began dating. He moved to Siloam Springs because it would be easier for him to commute. Tim is often at JBU games and even is part of the score table staff at home basketball games.

“He has been so supportive,” said Daugherty.

Continuing to strive for balance in her life, Daugherty let go of one of her jobs at the University. A bittersweet decision, she moved into a full time position as Athletic Director.

“I felt like I was slighting my team and slighting the other programs because I wasn’t able to give 100 percent to either position,” said Daugherty.

While up to that point, Daugherty may not have given herself time to create a plan for the University’s athletic department’s next 10 years, she did bring two new sports to the university and increased participation and impact of JBU’s chapter of Champions of Character.

Since her transition, the school has hosted the Sooner Athletic Conference men and women’s basketball tournaments.

Daugherty is also very involved in the NAIA, of which John Brown University is a member. She is currently the only woman athletic director in the SAC and one of very few in the NAIA.

“I definitely know I am the minority”, Daugherty said.

When she goes to national meetings Daugherty usually takes her husband and does not feel the environment hostile or even awkward – just very different because there is not really a group of women for her to spend time with.

“I have tried to get involved at the conference and national level to help show a female’s perspective,” said Daugherty.

Daugherty is careful with her own largely male staff to “remain above reproach” by not having one-on-one lunches and by being involved in her staff’s families.

“I want them to have their families around,” said Daugherty. She encourages her staff to bring their spouses and children with them to games and even to the office only in part because of her own love of children.

She wants her staff to have a balance in their own lives, including their spiritual life, like she has found in her own.

“It starts with me daily being in the Word and spending time with God,” said Daugherty. “How can I lead if I am not connected with God?”