On Oct. 30, four-time Olympian Aliann Pompey, director of track & field and cross country at St. John’s University, joined a distinguished panel of coaches put together by the Border City Athletics Club as part of its Women Can Summit Series. The club’s mission is to develop young athletes with aspirations for success.
Moderated by Canadian TV personality Rosey Edeh, a former student-athlete and three-time Olympian in track, in addition to Pompey, the panel included weightlifting and sport performance coach Elizabeth Oelher, Shannon Hatchett, assistant track coach at Arizona State University, and Marissa Chew, assistant track and field coach at Texas Christian University.
Both Pompey and Chew said they had mostly had male coaches throughout their own days as track competitors. For Chew, it is part of her coaching philosophy to empower student-athletes to be confident. “My objective every day is to exude confidence so that they can absorb it and see what it feels like,” said Chew.
Edeh noted that as program director, a promotion Pompey received last spring, she runs the show. Edeh asked how Pompey occupies that space.
“Over time, I realized that as women we do bring something quite unique to the situation, and now I walk more comfortably in that,” Pompey said. “It’s helped me be a little bit more authentic because there are certain aspects in my personality that I just didn’t feel like it belonged in coaching. But now that I’m thinking about it and now that I’m more comfortable, that’s some of the strongest aspects I’m able to give to my team.”
Next Edeh asked about imposter syndrome, which means self-doubt and thinking people will find out you don’t really belong in your position. Pompey admitted at first as an assistant coach she worried that she didn’t belong, partly because despite St. John’s having only a women’s track and field program, prior to her arrival it was an all-male staff. In 2014, when she was interviewing for the assistant coach job, she looked on the St. John’s Red Storm website to see if there were women in leadership.
“We had a deputy AD that was a woman, Kathy Meehan, the volleyball head coach [Joanne Persico] and [now former] softball head coach were women,” said Pompey. “I made it a point to connect with these women once I got there, and our deputy AD has been really instrumental in how I saw myself and my role. … I credit her a lot for the confidence that I have now. I’m definitely not that person that walked in the door in the beginning.”