In December, Yarmouth’s Susan Robbins will become the first athletic administrator from the state of Maine to receive the Thomas E. Frederick Award of Excellence from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators’ Association.
Yarmouth athletic director Susan Robbins consults with boys’ soccer assistant coach Dale Wing and officials prior to a game. Dealing with coaches and officials is just a small part of an athletic director’s job.
Susan Robbins’ family keeps her busy when she’s not on the job. With her wife, Rachael, right, are children, from left, Alden, Chloe and Ben.
YARMOUTH—Who says high school athletic administration is a man’s job?
Not Susan Robbins, the athletic director at Yarmouth High School, who has shattered preconceived glass ceilings and quickly risen to the top of her field.
For nearly two decades, first at Poland Regional High School and since the fall of 2005, at Yarmouth, Robbins has been a trailblazer. This December, in Nashville, Tennessee, Robbins will receive a distinction that no woman, and no man for that matter, from Maine has ever claimed: She’ll be given the 2016 Thomas E. Frederick Award of Excellence from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators’ Association. The annual award is given to one of more than 10,000 NIAAA members. It goes to the individual who exemplifies the qualities of leadership and who has made significant contributions to interscholastic athletics.
“Susan was nominated and selected for her contributions at the state and national levels to both the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators’ Association and to the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators’ Association,” says Bruce Whitehead, the executive director of the NIAAA.
Robbins will be the youngest recipient ever, just the 28th to ever receive the award and only the fifth woman nationally to be honored.
“Honestly, it’s very humbling,” says Robbins. “It wasn’t even on my radar. I was shocked, but elated at the same time. The motto of the NIAAA is servant leadership and doing things for others. I’ve taken what I’ve learned at the national level and brought it back here.”
Robbins played field hockey, basketball and softball in high school and field hockey and softball at Springfield College. In college, she changed her major from business to physical education. Her plan was to become a teacher and coach, but she stayed on an extra year at Springfield to get her Masters degree in education with a concentration in athletic administration.
Right out of college she got a job coaching field hockey and softball at the MacDuffie School in Granby, Mass., then she moved back to Maine, where, at the age of 23, she took over the new athletic program at Poland.
Robbins entered a male-dominated field, but fondly recalls being immediately welcomed by one of the state’s legendary athletic directors.
“I walked into Cape Elizabeth High School for my first Western Maine Conference athletic director’s meeting, and I was roaming around the halls,” Robbins says. “(Cape Elizabeth athletic director) Keith Weatherbie said, ‘Excuse me, young lady. Can I help you? Are you lost?’ I said, ‘I’m trying to find the athletic directors meeting.’ He said, ‘You must be Susan. Come right in.’ I started out as a listener, then I started to use my voice and I haven’t stopped since.”
In 2005, Robbins inherited an already strong athletic program at Yarmouth and made it even more formidable. The Clippers traditionally contend for championships in multiple sports, despite being one of the smallest schools in Class B.
“Yarmouth has been a great fit for me,” Robbins says. “I have great support here. I think I have the best job in the state. I think our programs have grown and evolved. I’m really proud. I can’t see myself anywhere else.”
“The athletic program at Yarmouth is second to none and (Susan) is one of the main reasons why,” says Weatherbie, who is now at St. Dominic Academy in Auburn. “She is very well-organized, which is very important in this profession. She’s articulate, intelligent and a good leader.”
In addition to working a ton of hours and dealing with myriad problems and challenges that only those in her field truly understand, Robbins and her wife, Rachael, have an active home life. Daughter Chloe is 11. Rambunctious twins Alden and Ben are 8. That’s a lot to juggle, but Robbins has been successful in achieving balance.
“It’s been an evolution,” Robbins said. “After I had the boys, it was more difficult to get everybody where they needed to be. They don’t mind being dragged to games that often. The struggle I find now is trying to get them to their events when I have my own. I have great support from the school, so I can make it work.”
Robbins has reached the top of her profession, but she isn’t done yet.
“I’ve done this for 18 years and I really do love being an athletic director,” she says. “I love being involved at the national level, and I’m still doing that. I enjoy my work. I love hosting events. We’ve got it really good in Maine.”