Myrita Craig has had plenty of experience being thrown into the deep end of the pool.

More than 30 years ago, she took on myriad assignments as a young AT&T executive fresh out of college.

She helped direct Cincinnati Bell Inc.’s strategic planning shortly after telephone deregulation in the 1980s. Despite no background in community planning, she was asked to lead the Agenda 360 process during an eight-year career at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

More recently she helped local technology startup Blackbook HR successfully launch its community engagement product as its president and an investor.

“I’ve often thought I was better off not having a lot of technical expertise in whatever job I’ve had,” she says. “Because then I have to rely on the team doing the work to understand what’s important.”

But Craig says her newest role as chief operating officer at the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati under CEO Sandy Walker may be her most challenging one yet.

“In business, you have a return on investment objective,” she says. “If things don’t fit the ROI, it’s pretty cut and dried. But when you have a mission, it’s more challenging.”

The Y’s mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy mind, body and spirit. It serves some 140,000 area residents through its 13 branches in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, more than 60 child care centers and Camp Ernst, its 325-acre residential camp in Burlington, Ky.

The mission hasn’t changed in 160 years, but how it is achieved is constantly evolving.

“This is a powerful organization. There’s an opportunity to be more visible here,” she says. “But you have to remain relevant in today’s world.”

Craig got her first taste of the Y as a seven-year-old growing up in Joliet, Ill.

“I was a good swimmer at a time when it wasn’t cool for girls to be athletes,” she says. But as a member of a Y swim team with four other girls: “I learned so much: how to win, how to lose, how to compete, how to be disciplined about practice, life lessons that probably wouldn’t have been available to me as a young girl.”

The Y staff and volunteers have completed a visioning process since Craig joined the staff last summer.

“I break it down this way: There are three things to keep in mind: The mission, the members and the money. The staff and volunteers are in the middle trying to facilitate all three of those. All three have to be in balance.”

The Y has identified several stretch goals over the next two years, Craig says.

One is to engage 2,000 new members. Another is to increase children enrolled in Y programs by 18 percent to 23,000 annually. And another is to increase the number of donors and volunteers, what the Y calls its ambassadors, to 10,000.

On a program level, Craig says she’d like to see the Y’s 26 swimming pools used to their maximum capability, add new youth sports programs such as lacrosse and broaden its child care program to include enrichment options in areas such as science and technology, art and drama.

Craig says she relishes her new role.

“If I can add value to such a great organization, I’d be honored to do that in the twilight of my career.”