Empire 8 Pioneers: Rhonda Faunce, Elmira College

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general | 9/22/2022 12:06:26 pm

Rhonda Faunce is in her 35th season at Elmira College in 2021-22 and her second as Director of Athletics and Physical Education. Faunce previously spent 31 seasons as the head women’s volleyball coach and head softball coach at Elmira, winning more than 1,000 contests in her career. She led Elmira to the 2000 Empire 8 Women’s Volleyball Championship and was the 2000 E8 Coach of the Year.

A native of Great Bend, New York, Faunce earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Ithaca College in 1985. Two years later she received a master’s degree from Ithaca in Behavioral Teaching and Sports Psychology. As a college student, Faunce was twice named an Honorable Mention All-American in volleyball, while guiding the Bombers to two New York State Championships and two NCAA appearances.

Rhonda Faunce – Empire 8 Pioneer

Year at Current Institution/Total in College Athletics: 35th year at Elmira/36th overall

University attended/class year: Ithaca College ’85 BS 87′ MS

Game race:

4-year member of the volleyball team in Ithaca
1-year member of the Ithaca softball team

Favorite Professional Team/Athlete:

Peyton Manning/Duke Basketball

Favorite movie: Cinderella

Last TV show you overwatched: disengaged

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Vanilla

What do you enjoy doing when you are away from college athletics? Outdoor activities like boating, taking care of my lawn. Spending time with my friends and family (puppies).

Favorite vacation spot: Key West, Florida

Favorite athletic memory from his time as a player in college: Representing my university and the competition. He was very proud to wear an Ithaca uniform.

Favorite athletic memory as a coach? The feeling of winning a championship (Elmira won the Empire 8 Women’s Volleyball Championship in 2000). It happens so rarely for most coaches and athletes that when you finally do it, you know it was worth it.

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Who was your greatest mentor: Mary Milcetic, who was my volleyball coach at Carthage Central High School. I wanted to be like her as she was such a great role model for women in the early 1980s. I knew I wanted to be a coach once I had her as such. She had a natural way of leading us all and she was the first coach I had able to treat each athlete based on her needs.

Most rewarding aspect of being a coach/administrator: relationship with athletes. What amuses me I work. My family used to joke that I played for a living. Yes! Who knew you could make a living playing games? It’s the best job in the world.

What have you learned about yourself as a leader and in your role? Being a leader is hard and it gets harder every day. I’ve learned that the things I thought were scary actually aren’t; you only need to go through it once and everything will be fine. Over time, everything works out. I like all kinds of personalities. Different perspectives can be great.

How does The Empire 8 stand out among other conferences? Empire 8 set a standard for others to want to be like him. He walked out the door like a dominant conference that others wanted to be in.

How has Title IX played a role for you as a student-athlete? Title IX It gave me opportunities that I didn’t have before. It helped me get involved in sports at a higher level. When I was in college, the only thing I thought I could be was a physical education teacher if I wanted to train. I learned from the dominant/progressive women in Ithaca that coaching could be a career without teaching. I change my life.

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How has Title IX impacted you after your college career? Title IX gave me opportunities that I didn’t have before. There are more sports, more jobs and more women in positions if they want to be. It is not about replacing men with women, but about a woman being able to be in this job or any job if she wants to be.

Elmira will hold its Hall of Fame event on October 1 and the 1999 women’s volleyball team will be inducted. Nearly all of the women on that team work in education, whether as teachers, counselors, athletic directors or coaches.

The impact of Title IX can be seen in two ways. First, that these women have continued to take their experiences and pass them on in the jobs they loved. Second, the pathways for women have changed. More women are now CEOs, CFOs and own their own businesses, which has been another big plus.

What do you think is the biggest impact of Title IX/How has it changed your life?
When I was young, there were no youth sports for girls. She really wanted to play sports and she couldn’t. Imagine that. There were no opportunities. Girls now have hundreds of opportunities to play any sport they want. There was also the stigma that if a little girl played sports, something must be wrong with her. It really wasn’t that complex; she just loved to play like all children should. She has changed my life. I appreciate where I live and the work I do and how lucky we are.

How has Title IX changed the world of college sports? Opportunity really is the best word for Title IX. I know it took some things away from some people, but it leveled the playing field. Equal opportunity is the message.

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What can be done to continue the growth of women’s sports? I can’t see it stop. It takes brave people to move forward. Be brave! Let’s have it all. Be willing to try everything once! Who knows, maybe Brussels sprouts are good for you!

Tips for aspiring student-athletes (youth/high school and incoming college):
Show up and work hard. Don’t expect things to be delivered just because you’re there. You have to work for the things you get. Unfortunately, some people will always be better than you at certain things and that’s okay. Find what you like and love to work hard to be great at it.

Tips for graduating student-athletes: Be responsible and respectful, but have it all and do it all. I know it sounds cliché, but time goes by so fast, so don’t miss out on any of the opportunities you’ve been given.

The Empire 8 Pioneers series celebrates 50 years of Title IX and highlights the growth of women’s sports, while featuring an outstanding female coach or manager from each of the league’s 10 institutions.


Empire 8 Conference members are committed first and foremost to the pursuit of academic excellence and the league is considered an outstanding NCAA Division III conference. The membership has distinguished itself among its peer group for its quality institutions, spirited and sporting competition, outstanding services, and highly ethical policies and practices. Its commitment to serving the educational needs of its student-athletes is the hallmark of E8. For more information on Empire 8, visit www.empire8.com.