By Nelson Coffin
Allison Fondale never wavered from a career path that was once known patronizingly as the “toy department” in old-school newspaper offices, yet is a serious — but fun — business for people like her who know their way around a field, court, track, pool or diamond.
As a three-sport athlete at Altholton High School in Howard County who played soccer, basketball and lacrosse, she then went on the play lacrosse at what was then Loyola College.
Ever since, Fondale has been involved with the people who play and coach sports, first at the collegiate and now at the high school level.
As the athletic director at St. Mary’s High School since 2014, the former two-time All-America lax standout and member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame is up to her ears in sports — and loves every minute of running an athletics program that features 36 teams at the frosh-soph, junior varsity and varsity levels at the co-ed Catholic school in Annapolis that boasts 500 students in grades nine through 12.
“I work in a very supportive environment, and that starts at the top,” Fondale said, noting her affinity for school principal Mindi Imes and her fellow administrators. “I consider myself blessed. I get to work with great students and coaches. Every single day is different and I enjoy every one of them. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Fondale was also quick to praise her staff, including Patty Gateau and assistant athletic directors Jason Budroni and Kasey Kazimir for their diligence.
Apparently, her Maryland State Athletic Directors Association colleagues have taken notice of Fondale’s job performance, considering that she has been selected the IAAM Athletic Director of the Year, representing District 10, and will be recognized at the 2019 MSADA Conference on April 27 in Ocean City.
During her tenure, things have been looking up for the Saints in many regards, including B Conference championships in field hockey (2018) cross country (2018), soccer (2014, ’15, ’17) and swimming (2014, ’15).
Moreover, the volleyball team improved from a 4-5 regular season mark into 2014 to going undefeated last fall at 10-0 and garnering a top seed before bowing in the B Conference final to Catholic High.
With an extensive background in coaching lacrosse at her college alma mater, the Naval Academy, Ohio University, Duke University and the University of Maryland, Fondale understands what coaches need to succeed.
A busy mother of 5-and-7-year old daughters, she still finds the time to make sure that coaches and players support each other’s goals.
“We don’t have a ton of facilities here,” she said. “So teams have to share our turf field. But it’s a collective effort, so our players and coaches have to work together.”
In addition to her many duties at St. Mary’s, Fondale serves on the executive committees of both the IAAM and MIAA and has chaired IAAM swimming since 2015. She has also served ion a variety of subcommittees and committees behind the scenes that make the IAAM thrive.
“On behalf of the IAAM, I am so pleased that Allison’s hard work and dedication are noticed and celebrated,” IAAM executive director Sue Thompson said. “Allison is a wealth of information, good ideas and professionalism, who has taken on a number of new initiatives for us.”
Last year’s recipient, Catholic High AD Kari McBride said that Fondale is one of the easiest people to work with in the organization.
“Allison is well respected among her IAAM colleagues, not only for her efforts as the swim chairperson, but also for her desire and dedication in continuing her professional development in the area of athletics,” she said. “Allison is a real asset to her school and the IAAM.”
Fondale said that she was honored when she heard the good news of the award from McBride and Thompson.
“I’m just proud and blessed to be at a Catholic school where I can come to school every day and make a difference,” Fondale said.