Since an early age, sports have always defined so much of Chris Plonsky’s life that it was only natural that she would end up working in the industry.
She first fell in love with sports growing up in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh suburb, where she followed the Pirates, Steelers and a golfer from nearby Latrobe, named Arnold Palmer.
Plonsky has come a long way to her current position of Senior Associate Athletics Director for Men’s & Women’s Athletics at the University of Texas-Austin since her days of cheering Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell with her dad at Forbes Field.
After moving to Akron, Ohio, in 1966, Plonsky realized that her pickup basketball games were more than a childhood hobby, it was her passion and calling and her parents supported her decision.
“In 1970, womens sports advocates were exceptions, not rules and mom and dad were more than supportive of my desire to compete and take sports seriously,” Plonsky said. “They were a true Title IX mom and dad.”
Like many executives, she began her career while still in school. As an undergrad at Kent State University in 1976, she was hired as an undergrad SID where she remained until her graduation in 1979.
Early on, she realized the long hours and work ethic it takes to succeed in the business.
“You have to enjoy people and have an unbelievable work ethic,” Plonsky said. “I learned early on that you have to have a sense of humor, be a good listener, and relish being a team player while remembering that crisis management is a daily routine. Someone once said, "dont go into coaching if you absolutely cant live without it." I think the same applies to athletics in general.”
After graduation, she took her work ethic and sense of humor with her as she landed public relations posts at Iowa State University, the University of Texas and The BIG EAST Conference.
“I was lucky to have great bosses who had great vision and wasnt hesitant to give a young female both challenging and broad job responsibilities,” Plonsky said. “In the 1980s, there werent many women in the field, so if one worked beyond job description, advancement was possible and even probable.”
And advance she did. The BIG EAST was particularly exciting for Plonsky, as it allowed her to gravitate from strict public relations duties to administrative and managerial opportunities.
However, after seven years there, she began to miss being on a campus and working directly with coaches and student-athletes, and she returned to Texas where she juggles almost every facet of the school’s men’s and women’s athletic department.
It’s a job she doesn’t take lightly, especially since she’s working for not just a paycheck, but for the relationships and being an active participant in on-the-field moments. One of her most memorable moments was watching the Texas football team upset the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1998 and seeing Husker fans stand and applaud Ricky Williams as he left the field.
“I like to think we work WITH coaches and administrators, but we really work FOR the student-athletes,” Plonsky said.
Along the road to her current position, Plonsky has participated in many exciting on-the-field moments and built some wonderful relationships with those that she calls masters of the industry. Among them, DeLoss Dodds, Dave Gavitt, Mike Tranghese, Donna Lopiano and Jody Conradt.
It’s no doubt when she speaks of her career, “Winning is excellent, but the road toward winning can be just as fulfilling.”
And for Plonsky, it’s been quite a road to Austin from Greensburg, Pa.