Spry is thrilled to celebrate the many successful women in the sports industry. We are proud to work with many of these women and can’t wait to share their stories and successes with you!
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Cara Holdsclaw. Holdsclaw is a woman of many talents and has held numerous roles throughout her professional career. She currently serves as the Senior Associate Athletic Director, External Affairs & Chief Diversity Officer at Columbia University.
Below is a summary of our conversation:
Please give me a brief history of your life/career
“I was born in Bloomington, IN. My dad was a professional athlete and Men’s basketball coach, so sports were always a part of my life growing up. I had the opportunity to be a Division I student-athlete as well and I began my college career playing basketball at the University of Arkansas, but later transferred to the University of Dayton because I wanted to be closer to home. After college, I chose not to pursue a career as a professional athlete because I had developed a love for the business of sport.”
Her leadership and business acumen led Holdsclaw to earn both an MS in Sport Management/Kinesiology and a Ph.D. in Sport Management, from Indiana University.
“While at Indiana I had the opportunity to teach and also engage in research. I’ve always been a curious person so looking for opportunities to apply the knowledge I was acquiring in practical ways within the sports industry was very intriguing to me. Even today, I’ve continued that research agenda by examining the ways in which minorities, black women in particular, are handicapped in the workplace.” Staying true to her mission, Holdsclaw converted her ideas to action by founding Black Women in Sport, an organization dedicated to the empowerment of women in the sports business industry. Holdsclaw also produces and hosts the Qualified Black Woman podcast, which shines a light on Black women professionals and leaders in all areas of the sports industry.
Also during her time at Indiana, Holdsclaw had the opportunity to break into professional sports working with the Indiana Fever. After a stint as the Associate Athletic Director of Business Administration/SWA at Alabama A&M University, Holdsclaw returned to the NBA where she would leverage her business and leadership skills to launch the Los Angeles Clippers G-League affiliate team. As Director of Business Operations, Holdsclaw mobilized this effort in August of 2017, and by October the franchise was ready for business. Holdsclaw said of the effort, “After accomplishing this feat, I felt there was nothing in the sports business realm that I couldn’t do.”
This “can do” attitude propelled Holdsclaw to her current position, where she continues to fight for opportunities for all as the Senior Associate Athletic Director, External Affairs & Chief Diversity Officer at Columbia. “DEI work is always vitally important work, so I am honored to push forward these initiatives in my role at Columbia.”
What have been your most rewarding experiences professionally?
“Teaching is always extremely rewarding. Being able to feel like I’ve played a tiny role in the success of a former student is very gratifying.”
“I’d also have to mention starting a G-League team from the ground up. To know that your hard work and vision gave birth to something that significant was very meaningful to me. I will always have a special place in my heart for that organization.”
What advice would you give to your younger self and/or aspiring professionals?
“To keep going, and to remember that you belong. Even though it’s sad that we’re still having “firsts” in 2023, don’t be afraid to be the first. You don’t have to wait for permission to be excellent.”
“You don’t have to look outside yourself for validation. Just like self-doubt is something you practice, you should practice telling yourself that you’re good enough.”
“I would also tell myself and others that we should be as diligent about championing for ourselves as we are about championing for others.”
What Does Women’s History Month Mean to You?
“Just as with Black History Month, it’s a time to celebrate, but after the celebration, we have to move on and keep doing the work. It inspires me to want to continue to do challenging, impactful work, and to think about how that work can lead to a better future.”
Leader, educator, baller, scholar, advocate, entrepreneur….all of these terms describe Dr. Cara Holdsclaw, but none of them truly captures the reach of her impact nor the depth of her passion for the work she continues to do. Spry is proud to honor her tremendous accomplishments as we begin our celebration of Women’s History Month!