Jean Berger

Jean Berger

The board that oversees the organization which runs the high school sports and activities for girls in the state has chosen a Winteset native to become its next leader.

University of Northern Iowa interim athletic director Jean Berger will take over as the executive director of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union in August to replace Mike Dick, who is retiring.

Berger worked 17 years in the Drake University athletic department before moving to UNI in 2008. “I am very, very excited to come back to Des Moines and to get started with the girls’ athletic union,” Berger told Radio Iowa. The Winterset native says there are several things that drew her to move from the college level to working with high schools.

“You know I think it’s the combination of the administrative things that I’m used to in terms of running championships and promoting opportunities for girls. And then it’s really the focus of the Iowa Girl and being able to promote the value of the athletic and educational experience in Iowa,” according to Berger. At at time when many schools are facing budget concerns, Berger. says it’s especially important to focus on the educational value of sports.

“It is because — for athletics and for athletics for young girls in particular — it is educational to be involved. Our coaches are teachers. Their classrooms might be fields or gyms, but they are teachers,” Berger explains. “And what our young people and young girls learn through those experiences are very, very important as they go out into the world.” Berger talked about what she hopes to accomplish as she takes over.

“You know, I think the Iowa Girls Union is viewed upon as the best in the nation and has been for many, many years. It certainly was when I was in high school and the opportunities I had even back then were better than some of my counterparts from other states,” Berger says. “So, the tradition and the history of the Girls Union is something, but as we move forward, I think we can build upon that and expand.”

She says Iowa should continue to be an example for other states. “I think we need to be very thoughtful about how we look at the future and the growth we have and what we do next. But certainly, we are aspirational, and we want people to think that they want to be like the Iowa Girls Union,” Berger says. Berger is the first woman to lead the IGHSAU. Berger is a graduate of the University of Iowa, earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a master’s degree in physical education and sports studies. Berger has two daughters, Jessica and Jenna.