When the soccer coach at Cal State Dominguez Hills complains about the grass being too long to play on, Susan Carberry knows exactly what he means.
When the baseball coach tells her the soil on the field is too hard, she can relate to that too.
Even when the basketball coach tells her the gym floor needs another sweep before it's right for game night, Carberry can identify with the problem.
Carberry participated in all of those sports, not to mention softball, tennis, archery, field hockey and just about anything that was in season when she was growing up in New Jersey.
"She was an athlete from the time she could move," said her mother, Bernice Carberry. "We lived in a neighborhood with a lot of boys, and she played baseball and basketball with them.
"The boys always wanted her around because not only could she play, she could win too."
Perhaps that best explains why Carberry is so accepted in a field dominated by men.
As the director of the athletic department at Cal State Dominguez Hills, Carberry plays to win, on and off the playing fields.
Take the case of the hard soil at the baseball field, for instance.
To make a point that the baseball field needed to be improved, the 41-year old athletic director strolled around campus carrying a pair of baseball pants with a rip in the rear.
"You see," she said holding up the soil-stained pants to school administrators, maintenance men and almost anyone else. "These are brand new. Only used for two games and look at them."
Carberry won't give up until something is done about the baseball field. She claims that the soil is like sandpaper from years of adding brick dust to it rather than soil. As a result, when players slide, they rip their pants.
Because the baseball team goes through 30 pairs of pants a year, Carberry favors digging up the field and replacing the soil, at a cost of around $5,000.
It is a battle she has yet to win, but Carberry is always in there pitching.
"She's a tough lady," said Carberry's boss, Suzanne Gemmell, vice president of student affairs at Dominguez Hills.
"She doesn't go away. She doesn't just say, 'Gee whiz' or 'Dear me, something has to be done about this or that.'
"Sue is constantly meeting with me and the director of operations to make sure it's on everyone's mind."
In what is essentially the male-dominated world of athletics where "good ol' boy" groups still exist, Carberry has to be tough. She is one of four female heads of both men's and women's college athletic programs in the state.
Of 795 NCAA-member schools, only 51 have women as athletic directors. Only one of those, Duquesne, is at the Division I level, 16 at Division II and 34 Division III.
Of the eight schools in Carberry's conference, the California Collegiate Athletic Assn., there is only one other female athletic director for both programs, Karen Miller at Cal Poly Pomona.
The other two in California are UC San Diego's Judith Sweet and Occidental College's Lynn Pacala.
"Both Karen (Miller) and I were already in (the athletic department) when we were named A. D.," Carberry said. "I don't know if I would have gotten the job had I applied at Podunk U as an outsider."
Dominguez Hills has eight programs equally divided between men and women. The women have basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball. The men have baseball, basketball, golf and soccer. Three of the teams are coached by women and five by men.
Last year, all eight of the CSDH teams had more successful seasons than the year before.
The baseball team won the Western Regional Championship and went to the Division II College World Series last year while the men's basketball team was conference champion.
"I'm a true believer and think it makes sense for men to coach men and women to coach women," Carberry said. "But I would never hire an unqualified woman over a qualified man."
She says the main reason she hasn't dealt with the sexual power struggle is because the athletic program at Dominguez Hills is fairly new.
The college didn't start granting athletic scholarships until 1981, so both the men's and women's programs have been in the same boat from the beginning.
"While everyone else was fighting for equality, specially in the large institutions, the men's and women's programs here were growing together," Carberry said. "I didn't have to figure out how to balance history, and we didn't have to take anything away from the men."
Carberry was first hired at Dominguez Hills as the women's athletic director and softball coach in 1977 when Jim Poole was the head of the men's program.
In 1982 when Poole retired, she was named athletic director by then-President Donald Gerth after a statewide search.
"We had a fair number of candidates," said Gerth, who is president at Cal State Sacramento now. "But I interviewed them and she was by far the best candidate we had."