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Designed to inspire and equip you with practical knowledge by providing growth oriented stories centered around athletic administration – all in the hopes of giving you a little ADvantage. If you would like to contribute to our blog, please contact Justin Chapman at


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Stories of Challenges and Growth

Posted By Justin Chapman, Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Updated: Monday, August 31, 2020

ADvantage Blog – Stories of Challenges and Growth

Justin Chapman | NIAAA


Right now, a lot of you are in a guessing game – and it’s a tough one.


With too many factors to count, there’s no sure plan in this COVID-19 pandemic. Which brings me to the main focus of this blog post: growing through challenges.


You might not be thinking about growing professionally right now, however this is such an opportune time to develop your skills, patience, and overall leadership qualities. I don’t say this to downplay the difficulties you’re facing, but this time is too valuable to be wasted.


Between athletic administrators Colin Fegeley and Jean Ashen, there have been plenty of demanding times. Fegeley launched the athletic program at a brand new school and it proved to be tough, but working through that challenge allowed him to gain more wisdom and expertise in his field that he is able to utilize in other areas now. Ashen said every day obstacles never cease, such as trying to keep a coach positive, but staying involved is the key to her success.


New school, new everything


Colin Fegeley, CMAA and Director of Athletics at Green Level High School in Cary, NC, helped start the brand-new high school he currently works at in the fall of 2019. Starting a new job is one thing, but starting a new school? That’s one way to grow through uncertainty.


“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t challenging, but I really enjoyed it,” Fegeley said. “I think in some cases I was really well prepared and I knew what exactly needed to be done early on. But in other cases, I think I took things for granted and was like, ‘oh yeah, we need to start an athletic booster club, and we need to file for 501(c) non-profit status, we need a board of directors.’”


One thing Fegeley said is important for any AD to have at their athletic program is community buy-in. While that is a different kind of uncertainty than what we are facing right now, the principle remains. 


Especially now, being backed by your community feels even more crucial.


“Both from my experience here (at Green Level) but also just over the last several years I think community buy-in in your program is essential,” Fegeley said. “That’s the school community, the student body, the parent community but also just the community at-large.”


Fegeley said creating a great experience for everyone is something that felt particularly vital for his situation, but he thinks ADs everywhere would greatly benefit from creating buy-in from their community. Part of that, Fegeley said, is just simply being available and engaging with people. To him, sometimes the role of athletic administrator can feel like you’re in customer service – always trying to serve the people in your community the best you can. It can take quite the effort, but serving people well is never wasted.


Fegeley also took a chance. Safety is obviously the priority right now, but what opportunities do you have to take a chance and start something new, even if you don’t know what will happen? Who knows ­- you, your students, and your school might see some significant growth because of your courage and willingness to seize an opportunity.


Stay involved


Another AD, Jean Ashen, CMAA and Boys’ and Girls’ Athletic Director at North Salinas High School in Salinas, CA is 62 years old and learns something new almost every day. At North Salinas, she became the third female to be girls’ AD in 61 years of the school’s existence – and the first female to be the boys’ AD.


As a former board of directors’ member for the NIAAA, she emphasizes the necessity of involvement.


“The NIAAA, the power of it is you go, you get involved, and you become like a sponge,” Ashen said.


Particularly with the national conference, she said she always comes back with more information and ways to improve her program.


Depending on your school’s leadership structure, you might be the only AD there. This might mean you don’t have anyone to collaborate with directly.


If that’s the case, how do you continue to grow? As Ashen recommended, growth comes by staying involved. There may not be another AD at your school, but don’t forget to look around you. What about your district, or a neighboring school? Or you can find someone by networking through the NIAAA.


ADs across America and the world are juggling a lot right now. If you weren’t in a challenging situation before March, you are now. Increasing your involvement in your school – along with nearby ADs, and the NIAAA – can only help you.


Your time is valuable right now. Don’t miss the chance to be an AD that responds to these crises by unifying your community, and staying involved – locally and nationally. Hard times can cause people to shrink back, but you have the choice to become stronger.

Challenges will never cease. Instead of trying to survive, aim to go through the challenge with a growth mindset – actively making choices so you can be better and gain the ADvantage.





Tags:  AD  ADvantage  challenge  covid  growth  networking 

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What to do with COVID-19 and athletics

Posted By Justin Chapman, Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Here we are in August, and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to alter almost every facet of life – including interscholastic athletics.

As an AD, you prepare for many health and safety related issues, but usually they don’t threaten to postpone all sports at your school. The impact of COVID-19 on a community varies with location, but for the foreseeable future, precautions everywhere are needed to stop the spread of the disease.

So, is there a way to keep athletics going and manage them safely? I’m not sure, that’s for you to decide. But you don’t have to do it alone.

Each and every one of you are in a unique situation pertaining to the virus and your community.
Because of this, I’m not able to spell out what precautions you should take or what methods and tools work best. That’s what the medical experts are for.

However, like I wrote in my welcome post two weeks ago, we learn from others. That is important now more than ever. Gary Stevens, CMAA and Director of Student Activities at Thornton Academy in Saco, ME, has been seeking assistance since quarantine began in March.

“I’ve been working collaboratively with athletic directors from around my state and around the country, in trying to prepare for athletics in the wake of COVID-19,” Stevens said.

Our Board president, Lanness Robinson, CMAA and Director of Athletics at Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, FL, can say the same as he has also been reaching out to ADs statewide and nationwide.

Furthermore, each of them has joined panels or discussed with committees in order to seek direction. Stevens said he recently had a conversation with nurses and an athletic trainer at his school just to talk through what to do if a student tests positive and other fundamental health procedures.

The lesson to take away from Stevens and Robinson is this: the most helpful thing you can do as an AD right now is communicate. You are the best person equipped to make decisions pertaining to athletics at your school/district, but make sure to connect with other ADs before coming to a conclusion.

“Athletic directors cannot operate on an island in this situation,” Stevens said. “We don’t have either the time … the expertise to deal with many of these areas. We need to listen to others, and I think it’s been one of the blessings of this experience is that I’ve seen a lot of collaboration and meetings among different groups that wouldn’t have talked otherwise.”

Regarding application of precautions, Stevens said he feels relatively well-informed on the tools and methods that can stop the spread of COVID-19, but implementing them into a competitive situation is problematic. Just about every sport besides golf and tennis requires close contact between competitors.

Requiring student-athletes to wear masks while playing is the only feasible tool to implement – but that comes with its own complications. Masks make it harder to breathe, especially when you’re exercising.

“There are people that say we should play sports, just for the mental genesis alone, and then there are people that say there’s no way we should be playing sports,” Robinson said. “There is truly a mixed bag of responses and ideas there to what should or should not happen.”

We’re in an everchanging situation. Robinson put it best, “Anybody you talk to will say, ‘Hey, the situation is fluid. Subject to change.’” Be prepared to make plans and then change them. Then change them again. And again.

Robinson said ADs like to plan and get ahead of the situation, but that isn’t an option here. It’s one day at a time now.

Through this blog, I want to share a variety of AD-centric thoughts and stories in the hopes that you will leave each post with practical and applicable knowledge. For this post, the application is as simple as taking take the time to reach out to others daily and have conversations with people you may not normally talk to. Whether that’s within your district, school, or state. Their perspective could be impactful to how you run your program.

In addition, stay informed. The Summer Interscholastic Athletic Administrators (IAA) edition has many COVID-19 related articles. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here:

Also, NIAAA members can watch our free recording of the workshop “The Game Changer: Managing High School Athletic Events in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” If you didn’t watch it live, go to, click the “Member Portal” tab, then click “Member Resources.”

With the uncertainty in the school year ahead, tap into the resources around you. Reach out. Connect. Gain the ADvantage – it’s what you, coaches, student-athletes and everyone in your school needs.

Tags:  AD  ADvantage  athletics  covid 

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Welcome to the ADvantage

Posted By Justin Chapman, Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Updated: Thursday, July 30, 2020
Justin Chapman | NIAAA

Welcome! Hopefully you’re reading this because you’re a member of the NIAAA. The one and only association dedicated to serving and developing ADs across the country.

But I bet you’re also here to see what this new blog is all about. So, I’ll let you in on the new ADvantage blog here at the NIAAA.

First, back in my high school days I played football for my school in Carmel, IN. This allowed me to see first-hand how the AD role fits into education-based athletics. Fast forward to my post-college job search, and the NIAAA felt like a natural transition because of how my background in education-based athletics intertwined with their mission.

After I settled into my position as copywriter at the NIAAA, I was offered the opportunity to create and manage a blog. I knew I wanted it to stand apart. The IAA magazine already exists with many helpful stories and insights in each issue; however, ADvantage is a place where I want to share personal thoughts and stories from ADs in a way that feels like you gained advice or perspective from a friend experiencing similar things you experience every day.

I may not have much experience in athletic administration – but every day I step into our office, I learn more from Phil Rison, Mike Blackburn, and all members of our association. You all have anecdotes, stories, and learning moments other ADs could really use and I look forward to sharing those with you.

I can see how the role of an AD is a rewarding one, yet tough. Every now and then you might need something to lift you up or a helpful story to bring you through a difficult situation at your school/district. Consider ADvantage the place.

The mission of ADvantage is this:

“Designed to inspire and equip you with practical knowledge by providing growth-oriented stories centered around athletic administration – all in the hopes of giving you a little ADvantage.”

I think a big way we learn in life is by simply listening to others around us.

Yes, we learn from information or highly valuable courses taught by the NIAAA, but anyone from a fresh AD to a seasoned CMAA could benefit from someone else’s experience.

Like I said, I’m not an AD – I’m a writer. So, I’ll gather the perspectives and stories from ADs and put pen to paper, or, fingers to keyboard.

In addition, this will be a great place to find updates from the NIAAA – including NADC updates and highlights, thoughts from Executive Director Mike Blackburn, and anything useful we might want you to know.

Expect a blog post every two weeks. Oh, and after reading, expect to leave with a little ADvantage.

See you next time.

Tags:  AD  ADvantage  blog  welcome 

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