Spotlight On: Emily Siefken, Illinois State Volleyball

Emily Siefken
Director of Operations
Illinois State University Volleyball
Hometown: Burlington, Iowa
Education: Monmouth College, Illinois State University
Official bio
Twitter: @emsiefken


What do the first two hours of your day look like?

It honestly depends on the day and the season we are in. I am usually in the office between 7:30-8:30 am, so one of the first things I do is create my “Top 5” list. These are my goals to accomplish throughout the day and could be as simple as “email marketing” or “finish the next weekend’s itinerary”. Within the first two hours, I also check my email for anything that came up overnight. If it is a Monday during the volleyball season, I spend my morning reconciling the previous weekend’s trip and submitting all of the receipts, while also maintaining our budget. As always, these items are extremely flexible as things can come up quickly and need immediate attention.

Name one go-to resource (or two or three) that helps you with your duties.

Slack! It’s by far my go-to communication resource. It has everything we need to communicate to our team and staff throughout various channels (I spend a lot of time on #travel and #food). It also has locked channels for just our staff to communicate through, which is helpful for us. It allows us to direct message individual players or groups about items. We utilize Google Docs a lot for food and signing up for meetings or events at specific times. Excel saves me when I am writing itineraries or reconciling the budget. If I’m ever in a crunch to post something on social media (ex. A birthday), I like Adobe Spark Post to quickly create a unique graphic.

Best career or work advice you ever received?

The best career advice I have received came from a Women Leaders in College Sports Symposium in April 2018. The speaker said “It’s okay to ask for help” and “you can’t do everything on your own”. I think this is super important in the Operations world because we are always looking out for the best interest in our team and staff, when they are willing to help you out too. I took those words to heart over the course of the last month as I recovered from a wrist surgery. I had to have other staff help me carry items around, lift things up and take a load off of me from shagging balls during practice.

Another piece of work advice I received came from Redbird Volleyball’s core value of Service. “What are you doing today to serve those around you?” As a Director of Operations, our job consists of serving others before ourselves. This piece of advice allows me to step back every evening and reflect on who I served, how I served, how I want to serve, and ways to improve upon servant leadership

First event, person, or job that sparked your interest in this field of work.

The first two people who sparked my interest in this position came along during my time at Monmouth College (IL). Head volleyball coach Kari Shimmin and Kinesiology instructor Jen Braun were the first two women who mentored me into this line of work. I was sitting in the athletic office my freshman year working on my homework after completely my duties with the secretary during the day. Coach Shimmin asked me what my video skills were like. I told her I could learn very quickly and make something awesome for her team! There begin my relationship with Coach and operations. I created a highlight video for the end of the year volleyball banquet and worked in the office for the next 3.5 years! Mrs. Braun came into play as we were crafting my schedule throughout my time at Monmouth. We meticulously planned and created a schedule that would provide me with ample opportunity for experience outside of the classroom, in the form of two internships.

Another mentor, internship, and event that sparked my interest was working with Tracie Henry at the Illinois High School Association. While I was there, I spent multiple weekends at the softball diamond for IHSA State softball. There I learned that doing the little things will provide big picture rewards. This was as simple as making sure Gatorade and waters were stocked for every practice and game as well as making sure trashcans were properly placed around the complex. These things taught me how events run and how to better help run events during volleyball season.

As you look at the athletic operations field, what is one area that is growing/changing the most?

One area of growth is in the realm of facilities. Everyone is making changes to enhance the fan experience and retention rates. In operations, we are learning about these new facilities and how they impact student-athletes, staff, and fans. A couple new areas of light that I have the opportunity to grow with include sport nutrition. How we as a staff are fueling our student-athletes during weekend matches, post-practices and pre-match meals is essential to their success. It is amazing to see the growth of our staff and student-athletes through this process and understanding how they fuel not only impacts on-court performance, but off-court, academic and recovery performance.

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