SHERIDAN — Sheridan College athletic director Jenni Winter owns a shirt with a different symbol on either sleeve. One sleeve features the Generals’ logo, and the other shows the Gillette College Pronghorns’ logo.
Winter holds the athletic director title at both colleges, and captaining two different athletic departments, while unique and rewarding, comes with its fair share of challenges.
“I don’t know how she does it,” Sheridan College women’s head basketball coach Ryan Davis said. “She’s unbelievable.”
Sheridan and Gillette represent the only two National Junior College Athletic Association member schools within Region IX that share an athletic director. Many junior colleges in the area have an athletic director that doubles as a coach.
Casper College athletic director Angel Sharman also coaches the Casper College women’s volleyball team. Miles City Community College athletic director Chase Tait coaches men’s basketball along with men’s and women’s golf. Eastern Wyoming athletic director Tom Anderson also coaches the women’s basketball team.
The Generals and Pronghorns have the same number of sports. Sheridan claims men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s rodeo, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball, while Gillette boasts the same sports, except instead of volleyball, the Pronghorns field men’s and women’s cross-country teams.
Having the same number of sports at both colleges makes balancing either budget much easier for Winter than if the colleges had a differing amount of sports.
“From a budgetary perspective, it’s pretty easy because the budgets match dollar for dollar,” Winter said.
But not all aspects or characteristics between Sheridan and Gillette mirror one another, the first being the simple fact that Sheridan and Gillette are separated by 104 miles. Winter calls Gillette home and navigates her way to Sheridan for three work days of every week. While in Sheridan, she stays with an old volleyball teammate from her time at SC.
Another difference between the two schools is Sheridan has an older fanbase that has followed the Generals for decades, while a more youthful fanbase follows Gillette — the men’s basketball team has only been around for nine years. Those differences affect how Winter goes about planning game-day experiences and where booster money comes from. Sheridan receives a lion’s share of its athletic support from individuals where Gillette gets a lot of support through sponsorships from corporations and companies.
Winter enjoys her job, and she doesn’t find acting as two athletic directors burdensome. Winter views her unique and busy schedule as an opportunity to positively affect even more student-athletes. Winter competed for the Lady Generals, and later for Montana State-Billings, so she understands the importance athletics play in any given college student’s life.
“I really enjoy my job,” Winter said. “I feel like I play a role in providing an opportunity for a number of different athletes to continue their education while doing something they love. For me to be able to do that for, say, 30 basketball players versus just 15, that’s something that’s truly rewarding.”
Winter has found this men’s basketball season particularly rewarding as both the Generals and Pronghorns reside in the NJCAA top 25.
The Pronghorns checked in at No. 10 with a 14-0 overall record, while the Generals came in at No. 17 at 14-1.
Winter looks forward to the both matchups between Sheridan and Gillette, the first scheduled for Jan. 24 in Gillette with the rematch occurring Feb. 17 in Sheridan.
“From an AD perspective it makes me super happy,” Winter said. “Clearly we are doing the right things and we’ve got the right caliber of athletes coming in to get us ranked. Those games are going to be incredible. We are going to have exposure of two incredible basketball games.
“It’s interesting because I’m following both teams and I’m watching them practice and I’m like, ‘Holy cow these are two high-caliber teams,’ So I’m super excited for those games.”
Winter eagerly anticipates those contests but also has in the back of her mind the end result. While Winter always goes home ecstatic for the winner, there’s another part of Winter that can’t help but feel bad for the loser.
“Sheridan and Gillette contests are really hard because at the end of the game I’ve got one coach that I want to congratulate and one I don’t really know what to say to,” Winter said.
That two-sided coin serves as one minor setback to heading two different athletic departments. Overall, Winter couldn’t feel more fortunate for the position, or positions, she holds in Sheridan and back home in Gillette.