The first of a two-part blog series on the development of athletics and a school identity.

Given my background working in multiple sports at multiple levels in multiple capacities, I was excited to use what I’ve learned in helping Research Triangle High School get the ball rolling with regards to its athletic programs.  So when I got hired at Research Triangle High School, I was thrilled when my boss and friend Eric discussed with me the possibility of being the school’s athletic director somewhere down the road.

The key phrase in that last sentence, though, is down the road.  We’re a start-up school with a mere 160 students in grades 9 though 9 the first year.  We started up too late to get into the North Carolina High School Athletic Association for the first year.  The closest thing we have to an athletic facility is a field out behind the school that lists at about 30-degree angle toward a drainage ditch.  In other words, we had virtually nothing going for us.  The tentative plan was to let club sports form organically through student interest in the first year or two, and use that as a springboard to develop a full athletic program somewhere around the school’s third year.

At a small charter school like RTHS, basketball will be the flagship sport. Football could get ugly.

Our students and parents, however, had other plans.  Almost immediately after our charter was approved in March, the powers-that-be started getting inquiries about basketball, and soccer, and track, and cheerleading, and you-name-it.  Since my graduate studies were winding down and I didn’t have much else going on, I volunteered to take some of the athletics-related correspondence off their hands.  But even then, our position hadn’t really changed – no school-sponsored sports in year one, and my emails to parents were largely to that effect.

Well, that line has not held.  Through a combination of parental support, a slightly increased budget for athletics, and enthusiastic reaction from students, we’ve developed a very small slate of sports to offer in 2012-2013: boys’ and girls’ JV basketball and JV soccer, boys’ and girls’ cross country, and cheerleading.  Boys’ tennis is also a possibility for the spring semester.  We hired a young, very enthusiastic guy to teach Health and P.E.; he will also coach both of our basketball teams.  Several parents with experience coaching youth sports for their kids have stepped up to coach or assist with cross country and a club indoor soccer team.  We have teachers on staff who can work with the cheerleaders and tennis.

For me personally, it’s been a hell of a leap from my Robinson role of public address announcer and de facto sports information director to being an athletic director at a brand new school.  I’ve become a daily presence in the email inboxes of athletic directors at charter schools all over the Triangle, asking them what the hell to do.  How do I schedule opponents?  How do I book facilities for our teams to use for practices and games?  From whom should we order uniforms?  The questions never stop coming.

It’s been one of the steepest learning curves I’ve ever been a part of, but it’s also been a lot of fun.  Once I have classes for which I’ll have to plan and do grading in addition to handling sports-related matters, we’ll re-evaluate that statement.  But I think it’s going to be very rewarding to, as my student affairs professor said at Auburn, develop the whole student; academics are obviously integral, but students need ways to mature physically and socially too.  And I can’t wait to be on the front lines of that.

Coming tomorrow: how we’ve developed our school’s colors, mascot, and identity – in other words, I’ll be explaining the title of this post.