Friday, September 1, 2006
Athletic Director Barry Haley joins CCHS
On Friday, I caught Haley briefly by phone. Noting, "My dog doesn't recognize me any more," he explained that he is juggling two jobs as he winds up at Wakefield and picks up the reins at Concord-Carlisle. His voice rose with enthusiasm as he spoke of his new job and the challenges to come.
Teaching ethics, integrity, sportsmanship
One of the things that most attracted him to CCHS was "the reputation of the school" as a place with competitive teams that is also respectful of students. Art DuLong is "a respected principal" and Haley noted, "We hit it off right away. There was real agreement on athletics' place in students' lives." To define that place, Haley points to the motto of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletics Association (MIAA), "The other half of education."
"Athletics strengthens education by teaching ethics, integrity and sportsmanship," said Haley. "I remember lessons learned from my high school teammates and coaches 30 years later." He added, "If students learn to represent their school and community in the best way and compete in a respectful way, those are lessons of incredible value."
Emphasizing personal interactions
Haley believes "My personal strengths are a good fit" to the job at CCHS which emphasizes "interaction with students and coaches." He points to the "singular focus on athletics" as an attractive feature of the position, whereas at Wakefield, "facilities was more and more of the job." He believes the job of athletic director alone is "more than full-time," requiring interaction with hundreds of students, coaches, teachers, parents, and administration, as well as managing athletic facilities and transportation. But he's not complaining; "If you don't love it, you shouldn't do it."
Haley also points to his athletics management experience at several schools as a plus, "I've drawn strength and lessons from everywhere I've been." His experience as the father of high school and college-aged athletes has given him a strong appreciation for the role of parents that "has helped me be more effective as an administrator."
Right now Haley sees his job as "listening," and, during the two weeks he has been on the job, he has met and talked with coaches, students and parents. He has sought out student team captains because he has ideas for promoting leadership by devolving team management to the students. In addition, he intends to spend time getting an overview of the existing program. "Then I'll decide what's strong and what needs to change, to best serve the students."
Focusing on sports participation
Haley also sees team captains as important in "self-marketing to other students" to increase sports participation through word-of-mouth. His goal is to "encourage kids to try sports," especially activities such as volleyball and golf that they may not be familiar with. He points to statistics that 55% of CCHS students now participate in a sport. "That's a good number," he said, and he is heartened to see "some expansion in the program," for example, the addition of indoor track last year. "I plan to carefully look at offerings," he said, and may make changes "based on what's of interest to students."
Lower participation in the higher high school grades is "a normal situation in athletics. There's a natural progression as skills develop, and many students decide to try something else." But his goal is to provide "a participation opportunity for every student." Of particular importance is to "never cut at the freshman level. If you do that, you don't give students a chance to develop skills." Haley believes that that philosophy is "well-supported here by the coaches," and expects freshman cuts would only take place where physical limitations require them, "perhaps in basketball."
Many qualified candidates considered
"I am amazed how deep the candidate pool was," said DuLong, noting the short time frame in which to find a new athletic director this summer. The previous athletic director, Brent Clark, did not confirm his retirement officially until after school let out. Clark grew up in Carlisle and worked at CCHS for 37 years, 18 as athletic director. DuLong said that Clark is "a private guy" who probably wanted to avoid a lot of hoopla around his leaving. "We're going to miss Brent. It'll be a tough transition."
Upon receiving the official word of the retirement, DuLong organized a committee of parents, coaches and administrators to set goals for the position and find a qualified candidate. Over 40 résumés were reviewed and six interviews conducted. DuLong credits the existing athletic department with attracting so many good candidates, "Concord-Carlisle is seen as a good program with good balance." Contrary to what you might expect, "Most (athletic directors) do not want to work in a town with pressure to win at all costs. They want to emphasize personal growth and teamwork, not just count wins."
Putting students first
The committee's criteria for evaluating candidates included a philosophy "consistent with our mission and goals" to "put students first." Also important was recognition that "for the student athlete, academics are most important." Certification as a teacher was also delineated as it "gives credibility in dealing with students," said DuLong. Asked if continuity in the program was a goal, he responded, "No, that was not part of the conversation. We were most interested in someone who would fit the culture we like to promote."
DuLong continued, "There were several very good candidates, and it was a very, very tough decision." He said in the end, Haley was chosen for "his student focus. We liked his ideas about promoting student leadership." His experience included evaluating coaches and "making the tough decision to let someone go." In addition, "He understands how parents view sports and knows how to work with parents for healthy relationships."
Haley has been "amazed by the positive welcome" he has received. He says, "I was nervous replacing Brent, a local charismatic figure. But the encouragement and support I've received is very gratifying." Said DuLong, "In Barry we have someone with a solid understanding of students who will promote appreciation of their sports efforts." In summary, "He's just a good guy."
© 2006 The