In Howard County, athletic directors get full-time status

On High Schools

May 28, 2006|By MILTON KENT

The idea of having an athletic director be a full-time administrator has been knocking around Mike Williams' brain for at least 12 years, and he has been talking to anyone in Howard County who would listen, from superintendents to principals.

Williams, the county's athletics coordinator, saw his lobbying effort pay off Thursday night, when the county board of education approved its annual budget, with the new position included.

In Williams' mind, having someone to perform the duties that a modern athletic director has on his plate on a full-time basis is the best of all possible worlds.

"We're under greater scrutiny every day," Williams said. "Now, we're going to have a kind of specialist and someone who schedules and secures and promotes and mentors the athletics and activities programs in our buildings. I'm excited about it."

Taking the new post comes with a significant catch, namely that the person would be precluded from coaching. That would mean that Atholton football coach Chuck Fales, who took the Raiders to the Class 2A state playoffs last season, and Brian Van Deusen, who coached River Hill's football team to the Class 3A semifinals, would have to choose between coaching and running the athletic department.

Williams, who coached and ran the athletic department simultaneously at Glenelg before he moved to the central office last year, is sensitive to the difficult decision coaches face if they are forced to choose between pursuing an administrative post and being in the trenches.

"I understand how they feel. I coached 32 years," Williams said. "To the day of my last game at UMBC Stadium, in the spring of 2004 [the 2A/1A state boys lacrosse final], I loved every second of it, despite the long hours and freezing or roasting depending upon the time of year or the occasional issues with a student or a parent."

The problem with having a coach double as athletic director, especially with the new responsibilities in Howard County, Williams said, is that the needs of both positions are too large for one person to do both jobs adequately.

"The old days where, typically, the head football coach was the AD, it's not that that's so much changed now, because we do have some," Williams said. "But the fact of the matter is, if you're putting in your time to football, and you're on the practice field or in the film room getting ready for Saturday's game and you've got a soccer game going on in your stadium, where's your head? Be honest about it. I know, because I wore both hats."

"It can be a real irritant when one of your coaches shows up on your practice field and says, `Mike, we've got a problem. The bus isn't here,' or, `The officials aren't here,' or `We've got a real bad injury,' or `I've got a parent up here yelling and screaming.' All those things can happen."

The new position, called "athletics and activities manager," will not only cover running the athletic department, but also coordinating the scheduling of the high school building for internal and external use, as well as providing for security for the building for those extracurricular events.

Managing those duties, Williams said, will free assistant principals at each of the 12 Howard County high schools to deal with classroom matters, a paramount concern in this era of "No Child Left Behind," and the need to meet state assessment requirements.

"It will take this big chore off the plate of an assistant principal who now has more time to get into the classroom, work with teachers to improve instruction and give the kids a chance to succeed," Williams said.

From the athletics standpoint, just as so-called master teachers help to guide and mold younger instructors, so too can an athletic director assist in the care and feeding of new coaches.

"We're not seeing teachers who want to stay in coaching for 10 or 20 or 30 years anymore because the pressure of the culture of sports now in our society," Williams said. "The burnout rate is higher than ever. We want these guys to be able to help these young coaches where they may decide, `Hey, I like doing this and I might want to be in it like [boys lacrosse coach] Johnny Grubb at North Harford for 30 years.' "

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