Illinois Athletics adds five new Operations Positions |

It’s always exciting to see someone get a new opportunity, especially when those opportunities come in the operations world.

One things that jumped out in the news release on the University of Illinois’ athletics website, however, is this one sentence — “All five positions are newly created.” That is great news for the operations community and signals the significance of the ops role and the value that a good ops person can bring to an organization.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics hired five staff members to operations positions with various sports. All five positions are newly created.

Below are the Illini’s new hires, listed in alphabetical order.

Rachel Halaszynski, Director of Operations for Soccer and Women’s Golf
Halaszynski joins the Fighting Illini after spending the past three seasons as the director of women’s basketball operations at St. Francis University. In her role, she was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the women’s basketball program and the coordination of team travel, community outreach and charity initiatives. Halaszynski returns to the Big Ten as she is a 2012 graduate of Penn State University. She earned her MBA from Benedictine College, where she also served as a graduate assistant for the women’s basketball program.

Michael Palmer, Director of Operations for Softball
Palmer comes to Illinois following four seasons at the University of Houston where he served as the director of operations for softball since August 2014 and also served in the same capacity with the soccer program since January 2017. In his role, Palmer assisted with day-to-day operations, travel coordination and alumni and recruiting databases, while also serving as the liaison to the program’s support staff. Prior to his time as a Cougar, Palmer served as a graduate assistant manager at LSU from 2013-14, where he earned a master’s degree in sports management. A native of Dayton, Ohio, he received his bachelor’s degree in sport and leisure studies at Ohio State University in August 2012.

Sara Rhodes, Director of Operations for Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics
Before starting her career in operations, Rhodes spent 14 years as Illinois’ Office Manager for Olympic Sports. Rhodes oversaw the office management and administration for a variety of sports, including women’s gymnastics, cross country, track and field, and wrestling. She also assisted the programs with time management, travel, and scheduling. Rhodes earned a bachelor’s degree in literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2003. A native of Bourbonnais, Illinois, Rhodes currently resides in Savoy, Illinois, with her husband, Jack Spinks.

Tom Szymoniak, Director of Operations for Baseball and Swimming
Szymoniak joins the University of Illinois after six years at Stone Creek Golf Club in Urbana, Illinois. He spent the last two years as the general manager following four years as the head golf professional. Szymoniak has over 20 years of professional experience in golf course management, revenue growth, financial management and staff management in the golf industry. He graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2003. Szymoniak is married to Jacquelyn Szymoniak, Illinois’ Director of Men’s Golf Operations.

Eric West, Director of Operations for Men’s and Women’s Tennis
West joins the Illinois staff after most recently working as an assistant coach for the University of Cincinnati’s women’s tennis team, while also earning a master’s degree in marketing. During his time in Ohio, West also served as the Assistant Tennis Professional at the Mercy Healthplex Anderson & Oak Tree Country Club. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and education from Oklahoma State in 2013. West served as team captain of the Oklahoma State tennis team in 2012-13 and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2012.

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