by Hayley McQuade
Tai Sharpley, Rochester University’s assistant athletic director and senior women's administrator, educates and supports student-athletes for success in and after college.
A former softball player for Norfolk State University, Sharpley started at RU as the head softball coach in August 2015. Working with athletes is still a passion of Sharpley’s, even though she now focuses on the administrative side of athletics.
As senior women’s administrator of RU, Sharpley’s job entails communication, supervision,
management, and oversight of the women's athletic teams. Sharpley works closely with the Athletic Director Clayton Bissett for “not only leadership development but to consult on major departmental and university initiatives; such as academic and retention efforts," she said.
Sharpley provides a safe place of support and supervision for female athletes and coaches. She also oversees facility and game day management, which includes organizing basketball games, concession stand volunteers, and working with officials. Sharpley also manages athletic transportation for RU sports.
During an event celebrating Women and Girls in Sports Day, hosted by RU's master's degree in sport leadership in February, Sharpley spoke about the significance of women in sports. “It is important to acknowledge the importance of women’s roles in sports. Many times it is overlooked because we are not acknowledged for the work we do and how much we contribute to the overall success of athletics," she said.
Emily Carroll, a junior mass communication major on the women’s volleyball team, attended the event and said hearing Sharpley's story was inspirational. "I loved that I was able to connect with her struggles as an athlete and even look forward to my future as a fellow woman in sports. She made me think how much sports have been a part of my life and what I can do to continue to use them to connect with others and grow as a person."
The importance of equality and empowerment for women in sports is felt by many RU female
athletes. Having Sharpley as an advocate for these athletes helps keep female sports alive at
Tessa Gage, a fifth-year senior sports management major and women’s softball player, said Sharpley has greatly impacted her life. “...I don’t think I can put into words how much Coach Tai has positively impacted not just me as a player but as a person. She is strong, intelligent, and a true role model. She has helped me learn so much through mentorship and conversation by always being someone available to turn to," Gage said. "She is also the definition of leading by example, being mentally tough, and taking on challenges. I have learned a lot from Coach Tai and feel I am a better, stronger person through knowing her.”
In turn, Sharpley said, “Every chance I get to work with a student-athlete that has any amount of passion for pursuing a career in the athletic field, I’m encouraging them to follow any opportunity that comes their way. You can only know if it’s for you if you try it."
Sharpley said she takes pride in supporting the academic and athletic success of athletes. “Watching their growth and maturity on and off the field over the course of four-to-five years...from a nervous freshman to a confident upperclassman leader. I literally love to see the light bulb come on!”
As the senior women’s administrator, Sharpley goes above and beyond to ensure the success
and well-being of RU’s student-athletes. The time and dedication Sharpley puts into building a
productive and professional atmosphere for those around her are what make her truly one of a kind.