Allison Barber used a basketball term to describe her approach to her career.
The Indiana Fever president and chief operating officer uses the acronym TTH, meaning to the hoop, to describe her journey.
“My basketball career started in my driveway and ended in my driveway,” Barber said May 11 as a member of a Women in Sports panel at a OneZone Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Ritz Charles in Carmel. “When my dad and I would play, he would say, ‘Take it to the hoop, kid.’ To the hoop became a strategy of life and career for me. When you take it to the hoop, you have a goal, you know what you are focused on. You are playing offense. You are moving toward your goal.”
Barber said it also means a person is taking a risk and willing to seize opportunities even though failure is possible.
“I don’t care if it’s a post-it note you toss in a trash can or shot to win the game, the success is inspiring,” Barber said.
Barber said players draw confidence from making a layup to hit the next shot.
Barber started her career as an elementary school teacher.
“I loved it, but it wasn’t enough,” she said. “My husband was a practicing attorney. The first Gulf War broke out and he said he wanted to serve his country and joined the Army. I quit my job.”
Barber got a job working for Elizabeth Dole at American Red Cross. She then started her own public relations business.
She was later a deputy assistant secretary of defense and special detail to the Office of Global Communications in the White House from 2001 to 2007.
“When I got my first job at the Pentagon, I didn’t know what that was like. I just wanted to serve in my own way,” she said.
When she was asked to work at the White House, she initially told her husband she didn’t want to. When he asked why, she said, ‘If you get in trouble, you are in trouble with the president of the United States.’”
Barber was the chancellor of Western Governors University Indiana, an online school, for nearly nine years. She then was offered the Fever post in 2019.
“The game that I love is now the team that I get to lead and help make relevant in our city and state for girls and women who want to be in sports,” Barber said.
The other Women in Sports panelists were Katie Kiel, manager of communications and community relations at Invest Hamilton County, and Julie Roe Lach, commissioner of the Horizon League.
Kiel chose pivot for her word, which is actually the word she chose for her year. Kiel, who raced USAC midgets until she was 21, formerly worked as an auto racing reporter for Indianapolis Motor Speedway Productions and NBC Sports.
“I make a word of the year instead of resolutions because I never keep them,” she said. “It came from reading ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’ to my daughter. I kept thinking, ‘You need to make a change.’”
Kiel left broadcasting because she said it had become toxic to her mental health. She also wanted to have more time for her family.
“I was searching for something to make an impact,” Kiel said. “I’ve made that 360 pivot from broadcasting to impacting Hamilton County.”
Lach, a Carmel resident who is in her first year as commissioner of the Horizon League and seventh year overall with the conference, previously worked at the NCAA. She focused on the word significance. It came from her reading a leadership book called “The Generosity Factor” by Ken Blanchard and Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy.
“The book talks about success and significance and challenges the readers to push past success to significance,” Lach said. “It defines success in simple terms as achievement, wealth and status, and significance as service, impact and relationships.”
At that point, Lach said she was focused on success. But the book made her take stock in if she was doing what she needed to be doing from a significance standpoint.