Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Associate Director Lisa Lissimore will retire effective April 30. Now in her 34th year, the St. Paul native joined the League in 1988 after serving on its board as a delegate of the Minnesota State Board of Education.
“I have just totally enjoyed the work that God has placed in my life,” said Lissimore last week in an MSR phone interview.
She easily remembers when several community folks had to convince her to apply for the opening at the MSHSL. “I was 26 at the time,” recalled Lissimore. “I was working full time for the [Minnesota] legislature in their public information office as a writer, and I also was coaching. I was quite happy.”
Among those who “had to convince me” was the late Kwame McDonald: “He had to twist my arm a bit to convince me that this is something that I should do.”
“I came out of the first round of interviews, I thought I did well,” continued Lissimore. “[But] the second round of interviews I didn’t think I did as well. I really felt like I bombed that interview.” She later met with McDonald, who kept encouraging her to hang in there because it would turn out all right.
McDonald was right in this regard: As the only Black associate director, Lissimore has been instrumental in developing the League’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, corporate sponsorships, and recognition programs such as the MSHSL Hall of Fame and the Triple “A” ExCel and Spotlight on Scholarship student awards.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed creating the recognition programs, something that I would hang my hat on,” said Lissimore.
Her duties also included tournament director for boys’ and girls’ cross country, swimming and diving, synchronized swimming, badminton, softball, and girls’ basketball. Lissimore admitted that she was more familiar with hoops than the other assigned sports.
“I had to learn so much,” she said. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredible people that have accepted me for who I am.”
Lissimore, a St. Paul Central graduate, played on the school’s first girls’ state basketball championship squad in 1976 and played a season at Minnesota before transferring and completing her hoopin’ and academic career at Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa.
She also is a proud product of the Rondo community, a village-like environment for its nurturing of its mostly Black young people.
Lissimore said she really thought growing up that all young girls, especially Black girls, got to play sports and other extracurricular activities. “I never realized until quite frankly I became an adult that girls didn’t always have an opportunity to compete or play the games of their choice.
“There were recreation centers that were run by people that wanted to provide us with opportunities to participate and to learn other things. I learned photography when I was 13 years old at Inner City Youth League.
“There were just so many opportunities afforded to us at a very, very young age that I didn’t know any different.”
As her time eventually winds down at the League, Lissimore looks forward to her next chapter in her life—retirement. “I look forward to watching my son play college basketball [next year at St. Thomas]. I look forward to spending more time with my husband doing things that we really do have in common. We both like to play golf.
“There will be other things that will pop up, that will come my way that I will continue to do, so I don’t think I will be bored in retirement at all.
“I’m so happy that I’ve been able to combine my love of sports with a career, because honestly it never has felt like a job,” concluded Lissimore. “It has always been a labor of love.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.