Two area women stand above athletic glass ceiling

REED CITY ROOTS: Kris Griffin grew up in Reed City and is happy to coordinate athletic events for the school she graduated from. (Pioneer photos/Justin McKee)

REED CITY ROOTS: Kris Griffin grew up in Reed City and is happy to coordinate athletic events for the school she graduated from. (Pioneer photo/Justin McKee)

By Bob Allan
Pioneer Staff Writer

REED CITY — There is no time to think about being trailblazers.

Instead, Kris Griffin, of Reed City and Chi Ethridge, of Chippewa Hills, are focused on managing three or four sporting events a week, maximizing budget dollars and duties related to the other hats they wear in their respective districts.

Even if they don’t stop to think about it, both women are in the minority.

According to the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, a little more than 13 percent of athletic directors registered with the association are women. Griffin and Ethridge are two of three women in the Central State Activities Association. Janet Tuman, of White Cloud is the third.

“I supposed to some degree I am a trailblazer at Reed City,” Griffin said. “But unique to our conference, there are three of us.”

Though the pair hold high-ranking positions within the athletic department, neither Griffin or Ethridge sought out the job.

Griffin, in her second year as athletic director, also is the dean of students at Reed City High School. She took the athletic director position after Monty Price accepted the job of high school principal, whom she was asked by the superintendent if she would take his place.

“I grew up in Reed City and always have had a passion for athletics from the days I went to school here,” Griffin said. “I was a student at RCHS when we were the state champions in boys basketball. When my husband and I chose to stay in Reed City, and with both of us working in the district, it was just natural we would attend and help out at sporting events. I think my continuous involvement with athletics all these years guided our superintendent into placing me in this role.”

FAMILY AFFAIR: Chippewa Hills athletic director Chi Ethridge (right) poses for a picture with husband, Nate (left) and daughter Payton. (Pioneer photo/Ryan Zuke)

FAMILY AFFAIR: Chippewa Hills athletic director Chi Ethridge (right) poses for a picture with husband, Nate (left) and daughter Payton. (Pioneer photo/Ryan Zuke)

Ethridge is in her third year as athletic director at Chippewa Hills. She also is the middle school principal and the special education director.

Though adding another title to her resume was the furthest thing from her mind, Ethridge also saw benefits.

Her husband, Nate, is a teacher at the intermediate school as well as an assistant football coach and head wrestling coach for the Warriors. Her oldest child, Payton, is a freshman at the school.

“When you start any job, you question ‘Am I doing it for the right reasons?’ and ‘Am I doing it the right way?’” she said. “For me, it is a good fit for me and my family.”

That fit wasn’t limited to the school district.

Both women’s contributions are valued at the CSAA monthly athletic director’s meeting.

“Both are very good at what they do,” Big Rapids Athletic Director Nick Scheible said. “They fit in really well. They feel comfortable speaking their piece and have been great to work with.”

As with any new administrator, Griffin and Ethridge received help in the early stages.

They both had to figure out the nuances of the job, from game-managing, scheduling, getting officials and hiring coaches.

They both put in many hours in the office and spend many more hours at gyms, courts and fields throughout the year —and get lot of help to accomplish everything that needs to be done.

But as both have grown accustomed to the job, the need for help has lessened.

SUPPORTING TEAMS: Kris Griffin sits next to Reed City high school principal Monty Price at a Reed City girls basketball game. (Pioneer photo/Justin McKee)

SUPPORTING TEAMS: Kris Griffin sits next to Reed City high school principal Monty Price at a Reed City girls basketball game. (Pioneer photo/Justin McKee)

“Initially, I asked Monty for advice all the time,” Griffin said. “Now, I don’t formally ask for advice, but discuss things all the time. I know that when I speak with other AD’s, they don’t always have the support of their high school principal, which is not the case for me.”

Though both women enjoy the job, there is one downside — budgets.

With athletic budgets cut to the bone, both women have to do what they can with limited resources.

“Every job has its challenges and there’s nothing more challenging than the budget,” Ethridge said. “You want to provide more for the coaches and athletes, but you just can’t.”

Still, for all its challenges, both women are very happy with the job.

“The best part is getting to know the athletes and watching them be successful,” Ethridge said.

Griffin agreed.

“I want to have continued success with our programs overall, conference championships, district championships and build solid programs,” she said.

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