ATHLETIC DIRECTORS: Why are So Many HS AD’s Calling it Quits?

On last Sunday’s radio show, I asked whether the time has finally come to seriously think about walking away from traditional HS varsity sports programs.

I asked that question because so many talented and gifted coaches have become tired and worn out by the endless number of sports parents who confront them about their kid’s lack of playing time, or not being given certain awards, or just not getting enough attention from the coach. And these coaches just decide that as much as they enjoy working with young kids, it’s just not worth their time and emotional effort to deal with their Moms and Dads. And so, the HS coaches quit- and many of them go off to work for club or travel programs.

In other words, having to deal with meddlesome parents has become the tipping point for coaches.

But as it turns out, it’s not just HS coaches who are throwing in the towel. It’s also more and more HS Athletic Directors who have found that their jobs have only become more complicated and more time-consuming in recent years, so much so that they, too, are walking away from the stress and strain.

In the forthcoming December issue of New Jersey Monthly magazine, long-time journalist Dave Kaplan writes an exclusive feature on this issue. And while Kaplan concentrates primarily on New Jersey in his article, this is a phenomenon that is occurring all over the country. More and more AD’s are finding that their jobs are endless — “all day and after dark” – is how many AD’s describe their job, and despite the high pay (usually at least $100,000 a year) and the prestige that comes with being the face of the school’s overall athletic program, for more and more AD’s it’s just too much.

Kaplan writes that in NJ, there are more than 400 HS AD’s, but that each year, the turnover rate continues to climb. Right now, there are close to 50 vacancies. Even worse, whereas a few years ago, an AD would stay on the job for 20 years or more, nowadays, they stay for only a few years.  One caller said that in his school district, the long-time AD had been there for 30 years. But since he retired, there had been 5 AD’s – -and none of them last more than a year or two.

Why is this happening? Kaplan points out that with school budgets shrinking, more districts are combining the AD’s job with those of being an assistant principal. While that might save money, it just doubles the workload onto an already overtaxed AD. Don’t forget that the AD usually oversees as many as 70 or more coaches in the school district, and when coaches leave, it’s the AD who has to replace them. And it’s not easy to find a JV field hockey coach.

And of course, the AD is responsible to make sure all the transportation for away games is handled, that the refs, umps, and officials know if there’s a problem with the weather, and has to make sure that all transfer students are eligible to play. But the biggest problem for AD’s these days is having to deal with disappointed parents who don’t think their kid’s coach is competent or giving their youngster enough playing time.

Of course, these kinds of parental meetings suck up lots of time from the AD – time that he or she just doesn’t have. And even worse, parents often want follow-up meetings as well. That means more time being used up.

A REAL PROBLEM THAT’S NOT GOING AWAY

As a result, we now face a growing crisis in which not only HS coaches are quitting, but so are their bosses – the HS AD’s.

To that end, maybe the time will be upon very, very soon where public HS simply say, “Enough. We have decided that in order to save money, we’re dropping all interscholastic sports. If a kid wants to compete in sports, go out and find a club team outside school. The benefit to the taxpayers is that we no longer have to spend millions of dollars on athletic budgets, plus we can dismiss all the coaches and the AD. That will save on payroll.”

Think this can’t or won’t happen?

Well, I hope it doesn’t, but the way we’re headed now, I think this new wrinkle might occur sooner than we think. And even worse, once one school district makes this move, I fear that lots of others will follow suit quickly.