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.
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.