It was at a home soccer game when Erin Boccher got her first taste at experiencing life as an athletic director and athletic trainer—simultaneously.
Boccher was splitting her time between lugging ice and water across the field to help set up, and keeping the goalkeeper warm before the match started. At kickoff, Boccher shifted her attention to controlling the remote control for the scoreboard clock. She often chirped her opinions at the referee, who apparently decided he wasn’t calling offside that day. Periodically, she had to stop what she was doing and toss the scoreboard remote control to St. Elizabeth head coach Ryan Burke so she could attend to injured players from both teams.
As the new athletic director and first athletic trainer at the Academy of Saint Elizabeth, Boccher is expected to take on various responsibilities while developing the small, all-girls private school’s athletic program.
“Being both athletic trainer and athletic director definitely has its challenges,” Boccher said. “However, some of the major crises can be averted by preparing in advance and anticipating potential issues that may need my attention. At times, things certainly can get crazy, but wearing both hats also makes things easier for me in some regard.”
When Boccher was an undergraduate at Rutgers University, she was a student manager for the women’s basketball program. That’s when she discovered her love for basketball and a desire to work in athletics.
Prior to arriving at St. Elizabeth, Boccher spent eight years at Mount St. Mary in Watchung where she started as the first athletic trainer. However, she took on more roles at the school over the years.
Boccher was actively trying to become an athletic director. After interviewing at a few independent schools, everything fell into place when she got a call from St. Elizabeth’s former athletic director Cathy Mota about the position.
“She has just brought energy and enthusiasm into our athletic program,” Burek said. “She brings incredible background knowledge and experiences in athletics and athletic training. She relates really well to the girls, and I feel already in a very short time we have been able to bring our sports kind of to the next level.”
Like Boccher, principal Lynn Burek is in her first year at St. Elizabeth. Since July, the two have worked cohesively to attract students by strengthening the athletic program. Burek believes athletics revolve around teaching fundamentals and skills necessary to be competitive. She feels the girls who participate in athletics are really learning and improving despite their records.
“It’s about changing the culture,” Boccher said. “I’ve been trying to hire coaches that are going to be more competitive and push the girls a little bit harder. It’s just a matter of us raising the bar, and making expectations higher each and every day.”
Boccher is one of three female athletic directors in Morris County — with Joanne Dzama of Morristown-Beard and Villa Walsh’s Jennifer Fleury — two of whom are at all-girls schools. Morristown athletic director Kathleen Perri, the only woman to lead the athletic programs at a Morris County public school, retired last spring after 13 years.
“Women play a vital role in sports. Why wouldn’t they have a vital role in overseeing athletic programs?” Burek said. “I think the time has come and the door is open now for women. Typically, it was traditionally men, but finally strong and talented women are coming forward and taking these roles and they are doing so well that they pave the way now.”
Staff Writer Dan Canova: (862) 240-2878;[email protected]