Assistant AD a driving force for Sewickley Academy sports

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Sunday, January 30, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Heather Border and athletics go hand in hand.

She has spent almost her entire life dedicated to sports, first as a three-sport athlete, then as a coach, and now as an administrator and coach.

Border, 45, is the assistant athletic director at Sewickley Academy, a role that began in 2001. She serves as an assistant to longtime AD Win Palmer.

“Win and I make a great team,” Border said. “He is ‘philosophy’ and I am ‘logistics.’ I enjoy making sure the day-to-day logistics of games and practices run smoothly for the coaches, players and parents, as well as opposing teams.

“It also allows me to see the students outside of the classroom and watch them grow on and off the field. Being that athletics was a major role in my upbringing, I am able to relate and guide them the best that I can during their time here.”

Palmer said Border’s positive attitude helps make for a stable working environment in the SA athletic program.

“Heather serves many roles at SA, including working with our coaches in scheduling games and officials,” Palmer said. “She is an important part of our communications team with daily and weekly updates to our families. She serves as a conduit between our faculty and our buildings and grounds crew.

“Everything Heather works on at SA, she accomplishes with a positive attitude. Students, faculty, staff and families feel most comfortable reaching out to Heather knowing she will respond in both a timely and friendly manner.”

Border attended Mt. Lebanon where she played soccer, basketball and softball, earning three varsity letters in each sport.

She was a starting forward on the legendary 1992 girls soccer team at Mt. Lebanon, which was the school’s first state soccer champion.

Mt. Lebanon defeated Philadelphia’s Villa Joseph Marie, 2-0, in the PIAA finals at Shippensburg University. Border and Molly Bushman netted the only goals in the game.

“During my time at Mt. Lebanon, we had a very successful run since most of us grew up playing house soccer together, then onto club and PA West soccer,” Border said.

The Blue Devils also captured a WPIAL championship in Border’s senior season.

Border continued her accomplished soccer career after high school at Duquesne University. She was a four-year starter at forward for the Dukes.

“It was an amazing experience getting to play in what was then the Atlantic 10 Conference,” Border said. “After graduation, I became the graduate assistant for the women’s soccer team and got my master’s degree.”

In 2005, Border added two more titles to her resume.

She was hired that year as an assistant soccer coach at SA and has been coaching alongside Jessica Peluso since then.

Later that year, the Panthers’ softball program, coached by Palmer, went through a rebuild. Border and Shannon Rankin took over as co-head coaches.

“Win approached me about assisting him in the rebuilding process,” Border said, “and I have been coaching in the program ever since.”

In her role as assistant AD, Border provides administrative support to Palmer and the SA coaching staff and acts as a liaison to the faculty, staff, students and parents. It is a full-time position.

“My role has changed from when I first started in 2001,” Border said. “I was more of an administrative assistant then. After a few years and under the mentorship of Win Palmer, my title changed as did my roles and responsibilities.”

Collaborating with Palmer and the SA coaches, Border organizes and schedules athletic events and practices for the middle school and senior academy.

“With that comes transportation, referees and all other gameday needs,” she said. “In this position, I have been able to make connections with other athletic directors in the WPIAL. Attending athletic events whether at home or in the playoffs, it has given me the opportunity to branch out and get to know others in this profession.

“Being part of the rebuilding process for the softball team, and also being the assistant AD, I will never forget winning a section title and competing in the WPIAL playoffs. Any time a team overachieves, there is a great sense of accomplishment.”

Border relishes the day-to-day activities in her administrative role.

“My undergraduate degree at DU was criminal justice with a minor in psychology,” she said. “I was fortunate to pivot and go back to school for my master’s, which landed me in sports administration.

“I am grateful for the opportunity and support that Sewickley has provided me over the years. We have a tremendous coaching staff, student-athletes that strive to get better and amazing support from our parents. Each day is different. You might think you have one plan, and the next thing your day has completely shifted.”

One of the perks of working in the athletic office is its location. Border’s office overlooks Means Alumni Gym.

“It’s one of the best views on campus,” Border said. “I am extremely lucky. And Win’s office is right next to mine.”

Palmer, who coaches the boys basketball and boys golf teams, enjoys the extraordinary connection that he and Border have established over the past two decades at Sewickley Academy.

“Heather and I work very closely, meeting several times during the day as there are so many moving parts to providing a special experience for our pre-K through 12th grade students and families,” Palmer said. “(We) serve as a role model for the more than 40 coaches and all the folks we’ve been involved with throughout our 21 years at SA.

“No challenge is too great and working together to find solutions for every challenge is both exhilarating and demanding. Our athletic team is composed of many folks, and Heather and I do our best to be good listeners to their inputs and concerns.”

Going forward, what are the expectations for the Sewickley Academy athletic program in the future?

“We want our student-athletes to compete at the highest level and see them progress as individuals and as a team,” Border said. “Continue to prepare them for life beyond the walls and athletic fields at the academy.

“Athletics is also about instilling life skills such as leadership, commitment and teamwork. We want our student-athletes to build a sense of pride, commitment and community at Sewickley Academy.”

Border wouldn’t have it any other way.

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