An NCAA public service campaign emphasizes that student athletes overwhelmingly “go pro in something other than sports,” with the implication that their playing experiences help them in their jobs after they’ve hung up their high tops, skates, or cleats. Judy Bernas works for an NCAA member institution in a non-athletic capacity and feels the games she played growing up have influenced her career.
“Sports has so many lessons for all of us -- how to be gracious winners, even more gracious losers, discipline, consistency, commitment, and most importantly, teamwork. The lessons from sports are used in my professional life every day,” said Bernas, who currently serves as the associate dean and chief strategy and communication officer for the TCU School of Medicine in Fort Worth.
“I played softball, volleyball and lots of golf,” she said of her sporting activities growing up. Her father was the driving force in her development.
“An entrepreneur who started his own company, he was my softball coach. He loved to play golf and taught me how to play. We actually both had holes-in-one on the exact same hole (many years apart) at Encanto Golf Course in Phoenix, AZ. He was a New Yorker by birth and followed football, basketball, and golf religiously. He taught us the importance of putting effort into what you are doing and to shooting for the stars – ‘if you don't do it, someone else will,’” she said. “When I play golf and make a terrible putt, I can still hear him saying, ‘C'mon Judy. Make it count!’”
She’s used what her dad taught her for more than just inspiration.
“Golf has been important professionally as a way to connect with colleagues and associates. And a little competition never gets in the way of a great partnership!”
Judy’s lifelong love of sports did, in fact, lead her to professional opportunities in the industry.
“I have served on the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority and currently serve on the Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors, where I am Chair-elect.
Two in five girls now play sports in high school and college. Before Title IX it was one in 27.
- Judy Bernas
She had joined the Fiesta Bowl board in 2013 when she worked for the University of Arizona for 24 years, most recently as the associate vice president of university relations and development for its Phoenix medical school. Despite moving to TCU in 2016, she’s maintained her role with the bowl game. It’s proven to be another sporting experience rich in important lessons.
“With the Fiesta Bowl, we are learning so much in a quickly changing world. NIL, expanded playoffs, streaming services and so much more will have tremendous effects on everything we do as a bowl. The Fiesta Bowl gives away about $3 million annually in charitable giving, including a program our staff created called "Wishes for Teachers." I think this is so important, especially now, when people see the money side of sports.”
Judy continues to remain active in the decidedly non-money side of sports – the fun side.
“Pickleball is my new obsession. I'm still a beginner, but I love the game. It's fun to play, very collegial, and I feel like we get to laugh a lot (mostly at ourselves). It's great exercise and the more you play the better you get. It's a very welcoming sport -- once you tell someone you are a beginner, they often give you tips and help. Once you're in, the gloves come off -- and sometimes you have to dodge a ball coming at your face.”
One’s competitive nature (including the inclination to swat a purposeful pickleball) is not defined by gender, as female athletes have proven many times over the last fifty years.
“Title IX changed so much in women's sports. Two in five girls now play sports in high school and college. Before Title IX it was one in 27. How can you not see that as a HUGE win? Girls are tough, fierce competitors and deserve all of the same opportunities (as male athletes).”
Whether she’s helping aspiring doctors realize their goals or using football to enhance charitable causes, Judy sees a big-picture meaning for athletics that stretches beyond the games themselves – something truly in the spirit of Title IX.
“There is so much more to sports and it is critical to make sure we are touching lives in many ways. Sports is about providing opportunities to everyone, and that truly should define who we are and the difference we make in people' lives.”
Fort Worth Sports has created a series of blog posts in conjunction with the 50th year of Title IX. Each article will profile a woman who has made substantial contributions to the vibrant Fort Worth sports scene.