Although brief, Shannon Percell’s experience as Interim Director of Athletics at Sonoma State University has been nothing shy of an adventure -- one punctuated by dramatic post-season runs from multiple sports teams, and two unthinkable tragedies that struck all too close to home.
For Percell, it’s all been part of the job.
“It’s been a busy fall. On one side, we had a couple of our athletics teams make exciting playoff runs, but on the other, we had the horrible Vegas shootings that affected a number of our students,” she said. “Then, we had the fires that spread all across Sonoma County––something that affected all of us in different ways. So, with those added unpredictable elements becoming part of the job, we had to be prepared for anything.”
While disaster management – including wildfire control – isn’t quite in her job description, Percell dealt with hardship admirably, keeping the ship afloat as other schools in the California Collegiate Athletic Association continued to play games during Sonoma State’s absence.
But in the face of adversity, Percell found solace by leaning on colleagues to help her navigate the torrent waters generated by both events, something many students and staff became familiar with over the course of the semester.
“Through everything, there’s been such great support from administrators, staff, coaches, managers––everyone stepped up and continues to step up,” Percell said. “They’ve all been amazing, and my life is much easier because of them.”
In regards to how she became the short-term option for the role, her reasoning is simple: changes are tough, so let’s make not make another one too drastic.
“I got brought on to become the Interim Athletic Director because it’s easier to choose someone from in-house when there’s a shake-up happening,” Percell said. “At the time, we began going through some personnel changes, so it just made sense to have this next change be one less thing we needed to adjust to.”
Aside from embracing and adapting to the temporary role left vacant by the recently retired Bill Fusco, Percell also resumed her usual position as Associate Director of Athletics – delicately balancing both positions along with a home life as a wife and mother of three children.
“Working in multiple positions, you have to prioritize,” said Percell. “I’m a mother of three boys, but I haven’t had as much time with the family as I usually do, but I think that’ll change once we find our new Athletic Director.”
Although she loves her family dearly, student-athletes also play a major role in her life, after all, she herself used to be one at the University of Montana where she excelled as a soccer player for four years from 1996-2000.
“An aspect that I’ve missed over the last few months has been my usual interaction with student-athletes,” Percell remarked. “I love talking with them to see how they’re doing. My passion is students and is the reason I love coming to work everyday.”
In terms of her current job, she wears a few different hats since the department is currently short-staffed, meaning each day is different depending on the needs of the unit. Some days she’ll attend meetings with coaches, and then zip across campus for a staff meeting. In the same day, she might need to support the athletes and coaches by watching one of their events. Then, at other times, answering emails might be one of the few tasks on her plate. Every day is different, but that’s why she loves working in athletics.
As a key contributor behind the scenes, a fair number of non student-athletes likely have minimal knowledge of who she is and what she does. Her professional title is Interim Athletic Director, but at heart she’s still a player and a coach. In reality, she’s much more than any of those labels; she’s a mentor to athletes, a great listener to anyone willing to chat, an ambassador for students, a crazy sports fan, and most of all, a caring individual.
She has a bright personality and a soft temperament, a perfect combination for dealing with any type of student.
She’s also an avid sports fan as one might expect. She enjoys to watch a variety of sports, but none more than football. To the dismay of her husband, a San Francisco 49’ers fan – and a few other co-workers – her devotion to the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson borders insanity.
“Sometimes I wear my Seahawks gear to campus, usually on Fridays, but everyone hates it except for Tyler Lobe. So, I don’t really do it too often,” Percell said, with a laugh and a smile on her face.
But when all’s said and done, even though she’s enjoyed it, she won’t miss the Athletic Director position, as she is content with relinquishing it to the next person who will be chosen by a small committee between January and February of 2018.
“In the end, I won’t miss this position once we have somebody new to do it,” Percell said. “I’ll have more time to do what I love, which is helping students and watching them thrive in whatever they do. After all, students are the reason I love to come to work everyday.”