I LOVE being an Athletic Director!

I have spent time in this great position at two different schools: Capistrano Valley Christian School and Excelsior Charter.  CVCS is a private, college prep school in South Orange County, California; one of the wealthiest places to live on the planet.  Excelsior is a public charter school in Victorville, California, where 26% of the city lives beneath the poverty level. ($78,145 median income vs. $45,895 median household income.)

I use those stats to show the diversity of schools I’ve been an AD at.  Those two places are VERY different.  And I loved being an Athletic Director at each of them! 

I first wanted to be an Athletic Director when I was a junior in high school.  I had a free period during the day, so I asked my Head Football Coach/Athletic Director if I could be his T.A. (teacher’s assistant).  He said yes.  I was hooked!  To me, as a 16 year old helping him with a variety of tasks everyday, I thought: this isn’t work!  This is what I want to do! 

At each of those schools I introduced you to earlier, we set the school record for the most League Championships won in a single school year!  Two very different schools, two very different philosophies, two very different budgets, two very different locales, etc. etc. 

At CVCS, we won 5 League Championships in the 2010-11 school year. 

At Excelsior we won 6 League Championships in the 2012-13 school year.  As far as I know, these are still the school records. 

VISION and MISSION of the Athletic Director and support of the Administration!  That vision was effective in leading programs to championships.

So, how does a school’s athletic program move from winning just THREE League Championships in a DECADE to winning SIX in ONE SCHOOL YEAR as we did at Excelsior?

VISION and MISSION of the Athletic Director and support of the Administration!

How does a school move from not winning the league’s CIF Shake For Sportsmanship Award in a DECADE to being recognized for their sportsmanship, and winning this award in BACK TO BACK YEARS, and THREE TIMES in four years?

VISION and MISSION of the Athletic Director and support of the Administration!

DEVELOPING THE VISION AND MISSION

My vision for a high school Athletic Department is simple: Build Character and Win Championships.  

It is a two-pronged approach that holds both on and off the field achievements in high regard.  The mission is to build citizens who value themselves, their team, their school and community in order to build people of high character. The second part of the mission is to build teams who compete for championships not based on talent, but a non-negotiable work ethic.

When I first got up in front of the Head Coaches at CVCS of my two pronged vision, they agreed we did a good job on the first part: developing great people.  But they laughed at my second vision: to win championships!  I was taken aback by their attitude towards that.  The same EXACT thing happened at Excelsior.  When I told them we wanted to compete for championships in every sport, a few coaches laughed.  I told the room that if they didn’t believe we could win championships, then they needed to turn their keys in!

Sharing a vision with people who cannot see the same vision as you can be a difficult thing.  So, you need to take time to spell it out further.  Some people need direction to see your vision.  For instance, I had one head coach who just wasn’t understanding what I meant when I said I wanted to see his teams compete for a League Championship.  He thought that he would be fired if they didn’t win one.  I told him no!  That’s not what this is about.  The vision is that we will win more than we are now.  But that doesn’t happen overnight.  It is a process.

We started talking about winning championships by talking about how he recruited the hallways on our own campus. He didn’t do a very good job of that.  He needed to do a better job with just building his team, getting more numbers involved.  Then, we spoke next about his coaching staff.  He had some good people coaching with him, some of his good friends, but the staff wasn’t very knowledgeable.  I knew that they wouldn’t be able to move the program forward, to be more competitive.  We spoke about adding coaches to his staff with more knowledge, and re-assigning some varsity guys to JV or Freshman, to spend time learning more about the game and how to coach.  This is how I shared my vision with this coach, over lunch, for a few hours, talking about how to make his program better: on and off the field.

We started putting our vision all over the place: on posters, on flyers, on the website, in the locker rooms, on practice calendars, etc. etc.

“The Eagle Way: Building Character and Winning Championships.” 

Soon, if you were to ask our student-athletes what “The Eagle Way” means they would be able to tell you!  I spoke at as many parent pre-season meetings as I could.  We changed the way banquets were happening.  Instead of every sport having their own, we pulled together all of the sports in each season, had the banquets all together on one night.  (Teams split off after the first 30 minutes to give their own awards.)  I would talk about “The Eagle Way” at these banquets, and we even started “The Eagle Award” to recognize one player from each team who embodied “The Eagle Way.”

Momentum started to build at Excelsior.  In the Fall of 2012, the volleyball and football teams won League Championships!  For the volleyball program, it was their FIRST League Championship in the 11 year school history of playing sports.  The girls felt what it was like to be the best of the best in their league for the first time ever!  (Remember, the school had won just THREE League Championships in their first 10 years playing sports!)  The Football team won the school’s first CIF Championship in school history as well!

During the winter season, the boys basketball team won a League Championship, their first in the history of the school.  And in Spring, the baseball team, and boys track and field programs won their first league championship in school history while the girls added a back to back title.  That made SIX League Championships on the year.

Let me ask you this: what changed from the 2011-12 school year?  What was different?  Were the kids THAT much different in one year?  Was the League THAT much different in one year?  No.

What changed was the VISION and MISSION of the Athletic Director and support of the Administration!  We had a Board who wanted to have higher performing teams.  They charged the Superintendent with hiring a new Athletic Director who could come in with a fresh vision and mission, to change the direction of the Athletic Department.  And we did! 

I hope you’ve learned a little more about my passion, and how you go about building success in an Athletic Department.  This is a topic I’m going to write a book about someday!  It’s not a one blog post deal.  But it all starts with this concept: the vision.

More facts and figures from my Athletic Director stints

CVCS: The Athletic Department won the Academy League’s Sportsmanship Award in each of my first two years by putting an emphasis on changing our sportsmanship culture.  We had not won it in the 10 years before I became the AD.

CVCS/Excelsior: Marketing overhaul: Revamped our athletic website, implemented highschoolsports.net for all scheduling so that everything is online and current for our community.  Secured free posters and marketing materials through a business relationship, which also raised funds.

CVCS/Excelsior: Established “season wide” banquets three times per year; done in lieu of 11 different banquets

CVCS: Notable Facility Improvements

  • Supervised the design and installation of a synthetic turf football field. Managed the renovation of the gym which included: brand new playing surface, 6 new glass backboards, 2 new scoreboards and a new sound system. (Found a sponsor for 88% of $12,500 scoreboard)
  • Raised funds for the purchase of one new school van
  • Managed the locker room renovation: brand new lockers, new paint, and flooring
  • Supervised the installation of a brand new golf driving range surface
  • Created a new weight room facility with $15,000 of new equipment

Excelsior: Notable Facility Improvements

  • Responsible for redesigning football field from 8 man to 11 man facility, including a brand new scoreboard and bleachers
  • Secured contracts with the city to move baseball practices and games from Little League facility to a high school facility
  • Designed new wrestling facility and secured contract with local junior college for two portables

Excelsior: 2012/13: 6 League Champions; 5 qualified for CIF Playoffs

  • Student-athlete participation increased 17% from previous year; school grew by just 7%
  • Four teams won their first League Championship in school history (11 years)
  • League Champions: Set a new school record with 6 League Championships: Football, Volleyball, Boys Basketball, Baseball, Girls Track and Field, Boys Track and Field
  • CIF Playoffs: Boys Basketball, Softball, Baseball
  • CIF Quarter Finals: Volleyball
  • CIF Champions: Football (first CIF Championship in school history, for any sport)
  • 7 student-athletes selected to All-CIF teams; 2 selected as CIF MVP
  • 7 student-athletes selected as League’s Most Valuable Player of the Year
  • First student-athlete in school history earned an athletic scholarship (football player)
  • Softball: Set a new school record for wins in a season
  • Football: Set a new school record for wins in a season; set 12 new school records
  • Track and Field: Set 6 new school records
  • Golf: 1 player qualified for League Individual Championships

CVCS: 2010/11: 5 League Champions; 8 qualified for CIF Playoffs

  • Student-Athlete GPA: 3.37; 66% of our athletes earned Scholar Athlete designation
  • 6%
increase
in
overall
student-athlete participation
  • Athletic Department won the CIF Shake For Sportsmanship Award; selected from 14 teams
  • League Championships: Set a new school record with 5 League Championships – Football, Tennis, Baseball, Boys Basketball and Softball
  • CIF Playoffs: Boys/Girls Basketball, Football, Softball, Girls Tennis, Boys Soccer, Boys Volleyball

CIF Quarterfinals: Baseball

  • 4 players voted as the Most Valuable Player of the League in respective sports
  • 3 student-athletes selected to All-CIF teams
  • 5 student-athletes selected as Most Valuable Player of the Year
  • Golf: 2 players qualified for League Individual Championships
  • Weightlifting: 2 athletes won National Championships at USA Junior Nationals

CVCS: 2009/10: 2 League Champions; 7 teams qualified for CIF Playoffs

  • Student-Athlete GPA: 3.22; 57% of our athletes earned Scholar Athlete designation
  • League Championships: Baseball, Softball
  • CIF Playoffs: Girls Basketball, Boys Soccer, Girls Tennis, Boys Volleyball, Girls Volleyball
  • CIF Quarterfinals: Baseball
  • CIF Semi Finals: Softball; first Semi Final appearance for any Eagles team in 7 years
  • 2 players voted as the Most Valuable Player of the League in respective sports
  • Golf: 3 players qualified for League Individual Championships; 1 played in League Finals
  • Weightlifting: 1 athlete won the National Championship at USA Junior Nationals; 6 qualified for Nationals

CVCS: 2008/09: 0 League Champions; 4 teams qualified for CIF Playoffs

  • Student-Athlete GPA: 3.11; 54% of student-athletes earned Scholar Athlete designation
  • Athletic Department won the CIF Shake For Sportsmanship Award; back to back years
  • Softball: CIF Southern Section Academic Team Champions
  • Girls Tennis: CIF Southern Section Academic Team Champions
  • CIF Playoffs: Baseball, Softball, Softball
  • CIF Quarterfinals:  Boys Basketball
  • Golf: 3 players qualified for League Individual Championships; 1 played in League Finals
  • Weightlifting: program became 2nd largest chapter of USA Weightlifting in CA; 3 qualified for Nationals

CVCS: 2007/08: 1 League Champion; 3 teams qualified for CIF Playoffs

  • Student-Athlete GPA: 2.98; 48% of our athletes earned Scholar Athlete designation
  • Athletic Department won first League Sportsmanship Award (first time in 5 years)
  • Athletic Department won the CIF Shake For Sportsmanship Award (first time in 10 years)
  • Girls Tennis: CIF Southern Section Academic Team Champions (first team in 17 years)
  • Softball: CIF State Academic Team Champions (first time in school history for any team)
  • League Champions: Boys Basketball
  • CIF Playoffs: Baseball, Softball
  • CIF Quarterfinals:  Boys Basketball
  • 1 player voted as the Most Valuable Player of the League in respective sport
  • 2 student-athletes selected to All-CIF teams
  • Girls Golf: Won first league match in school history
  • Boys Basketball: Most wins in school history
  • Golf: 2 players qualified for League Individual Championships; 1 played in League Finals

 

Chris Fore has his Masters degree in Athletic Administration, is a Certified Athletic Administrator and serves as an Adjunct Professor in the M.S. Physical Education –  Sports Management program at Azusa Pacific University. Coach Fore runs Eight Laces Consulting where he specializes in helping coaches nationwide in their job search process.  Fore was named to the Hudl Top 100 in 2017, and the Top 5 Best High School Football Coaches to follow on Twitter by MaxPreps in 2016.  Follow him!

 

 

 

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