Sharon High Athletic Director's Retirement Allows for Review of Position
What should the athletic director's role be in Sharon?
The upcoming retirement of Athletic Director Robert Sondheim affords the community the chance to take a step back and consider both the future of Sharon High School athletics, and the role of an AD in general.
The traditional duties of an AD include recruiting excellent coaches, organizing practice and transportation schedules, and facilities management. The AD also keeps current of athletic rules and regulations and participates in Hockomock League meetings. No doubt the AD candidates will be asked how they plan to handle these important obligations.
But a candidate for an AD position also should have a larger vision for the role
athletics and physical fitness play in a challenging academic environment like
Sharon High School.
Statistics quoted at a recent forum suggest that fewer than 50 percent of Sharon High School students participate on any interscholastic team at any point during the academic year. This means that there is a great, under-served community of students that either have chosen for whatever reason not to participate in athletics, or that may be unaware of the benefits participating in sports may bring.
Several studies regarding regular exercise and academic performance have been published recently. In cases where new physical education programs were implemented, classroom academic performance either improved or remained the same. No recent studies suggest that taking some time away from the classroom for regular exercise impacts academic performance negatively.
The AD search committee, therefore, should inquire not only whether the AD candidates have innovative ideas for increasing participation on the interscholastic teams, but whether they have a larger vision for creating and implementing programs thatreach the majority of students that do not currently participate.
With regard to the more traditional AD functions, the new AD also should be challenged to update and improve the communication flow between the AD's office, coaches, parents and students. Parents and players alike should have ready access to practice and game schedules, bus pick-up and drop-off times and the like. Changes to schedules should be promptly and widely communicated by electronic means. Coaches should be encouraged, if not required, to utilize up-to-date technologies like the web and text messaging to make sure kids know where and when they are supposed to be and how they are going to get there.
The AD candidates also should be asked how they might work with the existing
community sports organizations here in town to develop talent and encourage
greater participation. High school coaches should be encouraged, if not required,
to work occasionally with the baseball, softball, basketball, football, lacrosse,
swimming and soccer travel programs to implement techniques and schemes thatwill not have to be taught for the very first time at the high school level.
The AD candidates should be asked to identify good ideas that could be adopted from other communities. One town - Mercer Island, Wash. - is quite similar
to Sharon, with three elementary schools, one middle school and a high school.
There, high school basketball players are required to help coach the town’s youth
recreational basketball teams. This means that offensive and defensive schemes
employed by the high school coaching staff are being introduced as early as
elementary school, thus giving the players a head start on their development.
(This practice also requires the players to give something back to the community
in exchange for the privilege of participating on a team.)
Sondheim will be a tough act to follow. During his tenure, many teams and individuals have competed successfully at the state level. Participation in many sports has increased. Some long-struggling teams such as the softball and football squads have experienced great turnarounds during his tenure. He also has repeatedly stressed the importance of sportsmanship and good fan behavior. These are outstanding qualities which should be required of the new AD.
But with all we know today about the importance of physical fitness, and with
incredible communications technologies at our finger-tips, Sharon residents
should expect that the new AD will take the athletics program to a whole new
level. Hopefully, the town will challenge the new AD to consider how the community might improve the health and well-being of even more Sharon High School students in the years ahead.