Jackie Slaats, Director of Athletics and Senior Advisor to the President, begins her 26th year at Lake Forest College. Slaats came to Lake Forest in 1986 as the Head Basketball and Volleyball Coach and in 1992 was named the College’s Director of Athletics. After 22 seasons as Director of Athletics and Head Women's Basketball Coach, she resigned from coaching basketball and added the role of Senior Advisor to the President to her Director of Athletics responsibilities on campus – the dual position she holds today.
Slaats earned her undergraduate degree from Iowa State University in 1986, where she played four years of basketball for the Cyclones, and her master's degree in 1992 from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. One of the first things Slaats did on campus as Director of Athletics was to hang a sign in the Sports Center that reads, “Lake Forest College: A Tradition of Excellence.” Since that day, she has strived to uphold and enhance the College’s tradition of academic and athletic excellence, and the results of her vision and leadership can be seen throughout the entire athletic department, College, and local community.
Slaats also enjoyed an extremely successful career as the College's Women's Basketball Coach, posting a 386-133 record in 22 seasons from 1986-2008. Her teams won 14 or more games in 21 consecutive years and at least 20 in seven of her eleven last seasons. Slaats received numerous coach of the year awards and was honored to coach the 2001 Josten’s Trophy Winner. Her .743 career winning percentage ranks among the top 20 in NCAA Division III history. In addition to coaching basketball, she led the volleyball program to a 100-84 record in the six seasons prior to becoming the College's Director of Athletics.
During her tenure at Lake Forest, Slaats has continuously made efforts to improve conditions for student-athletes and others associated with Forester Athletics. The $17-million renovation of the Sports & Recreation Center in 2011 is the most recent enhancement. The 63,000 square foot facility addition includes several new areas for students to train, exercise, and socialize. Slaats also led the 2004 renovation of Farwell Field, home of the Forester football and soccer teams, and her staff's 2001 transition to Halas Hall, former home of the Chicago Bears. In addition, Slaats' collection of accomplishments includes the addition of men's and women's cross country and women's ice hockey to the slate of varsity programs, the creation of the F.A.N. Club (Forester Athletic Network), the College's booster club, and the A.C.E. (Academic and Athletic Commitment to Excellence) Program, the department’s annual academic/athletic initiative. That list does not even mention her countless projects to promote school spirit and community engagement, including the resurrection of Homecoming weekend, Forester Fests, the addition of several new athletic/alumni events, Forester Fridays, and most recently, the development of relationships with North Chicago Community Partners (mentoring) and Great Lakes Adaptive Sports (sled hockey).
In terms of athletic competition during Slaats’ 19 years at the helm of the program, Foresters have reached unprecedented levels of success while maintaining and advancing the ideals and philosophies of NCAA Division III athletics. Last year alone, Lake Forest was honored to have 12 of 17 varsity sports compete in their conference or association tournaments/meets. Forester teams combined to post a .549 average team winning percentage and a .563 mark in league play. The College’s student-athletes were named all-conference 36 times and established or tied 40 school records. They were equally successful in the classroom, combining for nearly a 3.0 grade point average and earning 76 Academic All-Conference awards.
Slaats, in honor and recognition of her numerous administrative and coaching accomplishments, was inducted into the Lake Forest College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008. The Cuba City, Wisconsin, native was also named the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Female Athlete of the Year in 1998.
She resides in nearby Vernon Hills.
Major Athletic Department Accomplishments During Slaats’s Tenure:
- 36 conference championships, incuding at least one in 12 different sports.
- Created and secured funding for an Athletic Hall of Fame and Trophy Room to honor the rich history of Forester Athletics.
- Adoption of a black bear mascot ("Boomer") and bear paw logo, the first time since the early 1980s that a “Forester” identity existed.
- Re-designed the Athletic Council to promote the development of student leadership skills and school spirit.
- Assumed a leadership role in the adoption of a new weekly class schedule that allows a block out time for extra-curricular activities.
- Spearheaded campus-wide programs to address relevant topics such as drugs and alcohol, diversity, and hazing.
- Increased community support and attendance through various programs, including National Girls and Women in Sports Day, Take a Kid to the Game Day, and a partnership with the Winter Club of Lake Forest.
- Promoted involvement between Forester student-athletes and the community through programs such as Adopt-a-Highway, Coaches vs. Cancer, Misericordia, the Walter Payton Toy Drive, Special Olympic Skills Day, etc.