The role of a high school athletic director is a demanding one. The hours are long, the responsibilities are many and the person is, for better or worse, usually the face of their school’s Interscholastic sports in the community and beyond. Depending on the district, the AD might also be responsible for areas such as physical education, student activities and more.
The position can be a challenge for even the most experienced men and women on the job. And for those just entering the field, it can be potentially overwhelming, with many new things to learn.
The NJSIAA is cognizant of that, which is why the association, in conjunction with the Directors of Athletics Association of New Jersey, recently hosted a workshop for new and limited experience (two to three years of service) athletic directors in Robbinsville.
“It’s a demanding job with many responsibilities, and every athletic director was new in this position at one time,” said Jack DuBois, NJSIAA Assistant Director who helped coordinate the program. “It’s important for the new athletic directors to learn as much as possible from fellow athletic directors and our staff, and also make contacts that can help them as well.”
The day was divided into two sessions. The first was conducted by the DAANJ, with veteran ADs from throughout the state speaking to the new administrators on topics that included oversight and evaluation of coaches, dealing with parents and coaches, sportsmanship and time management.
“Everyone here is trying to help each other,” said Denis Nelson, the AD at River Dell who is President of the DAANJ and led its portion of the workshop, along with a group of colleagues that included Dave Ryden of Marlboro, Dave Frazier of Rutherford and John Fraraccio of Memorial of West New York. “Especially those first couple of weeks and months when everything is moving very fast. This is an extremely collegial group in the education industry. Despite the fact that we’re competing against each another, everybody really looks to help one another do the job the best way possible. I’ve always found that to be a really cool, unique aspect to the work.”
After a break for lunch, the new ADs then learned about the NJSIAA and how the association works with administrators. In addition to DuBois, they heard from NJSIAA Executive Director Larry White, Director of Finance Colleen Maguire, Project Manager Michael Zapicchi and Assistant Directors Kim Cole, Al Stumpf, Bill Bruno and Tony Maselli. They were also introduced to the NJSIAA office staff. Aside from learning about various rules and regulations of the association, they also made aware of the point people they would need to deal with at the office should various questions or issues crop up throughout the year.
Attendees at the workshop were excited to take useful new information back to their schools.
Alison Le Vine Pugsley is the new athletic director at Trinity Hall in Monmouth County. She was previously as an academic advisor at Fordham University, and also the AD at Hewitt School, an all-girls K-12 independent school in New York City. For someone in her position, it was important to gain insight into how member schools work with the NJSIAA.
“There was a lot here that will help, and they did a phenomenal job giving us as much information as possible,” she said.
Her points were echoed by Michael Del Aversano, the new AD at Spotswood. He was previously a guidance counselor at the school, as well as a coach in many sports.
“There was a lot of information, and it was also nice to meet a lot of people,” he said. “Putting faces with names really helps, and it’s useful in getting things organized. They get it, because they did it, and it’s good to know that there are people who are always available.”