With the start of another academic year and the commencement of the high school sports calendar, Washington Post special writer Robert Lohrer interviewed three Northern Virginia public high school athletic directors and asked them to describe the aspects of their jobs and to address the concerns and problems they face.
Bob Hardage will be beginning his 26th year at Annandale High School and his fifth as athletic director. Jeff Dietze will be starting his first year at newly formed West Potomac High School as student activities director, a job that includes the responsibilities of athletic director. Ed Wilson will be in his 11th year as athletic director of Wakefield High School. BOB HARDAGE
Hardage, like a few other area athletic directors, also coaches the varsity football team. During the late summer, he is in his office at 7 a.m. and doesn't arrive home until 8 p.m. In addition to team practices, which he held twice a day until last Tuesday when the team began one-a-day workouts, he spends the day coordinating schedules for the other fall sports, working on the reserve seating program Annandale offers and administering the physical education program.
Q: What's the athletic director's schedule like?
A: We really don't ever leave. Athletic directors are on a 12-month contract. So we're there all summer long to gear up for the academic semester.
We have to get as much done during the summer so we're prepared for the school year.
Q: How have the athletes changed in the last 10 years? In the last 20 years?
A: Youngsters only want to partake in activities where they're going to achieve. They used to turn out for teams in such numbers that we had to urge some to drop off.
Lots of kids tend to drop out now. Not every youngster is willing to practice every day and work hard and not play on Friday night.
Q: Why aren't more youngsters out for teams at Annandale?
A: There are more kids getting jobs now. It's easier for kids to quit now. Also, up until this year, we have been in a decreasing enrollment situation. We have 1,850 in the school but 650 are freshmen; that's more than one-third.
The participation factor is one thing I'm always concerned with. One thing that bothers me is that we don't get every kid out. A lot of your private schools do that. The more participation, the better off we are and the better off the youngster is. They can learn so much, not just about winning and losing. They learn discipline and commitment.
The joys come when you see a group of youngsters go out and drive and achieve. Last year that's what happened with our wrestling and baseball team. Neither were very talented. Both went out and won the district championships. The wrestling team was just a bunch of guys who went out and worked hard. JEFF DIETZE
Dietze is the student activities director at West Potomac High School. The school is new, as is Dietze to his job. But for the past 10 years he performed the same job at Fort Hunt, which merged with Groveton this summer to form West Potomac.
As supervisor of all athletic teams and music programs, including the band, he was responsible for ordering the new uniforms that bear the West Potomac Wolverines logo. He spent the summer tending to things such as making sure the Wolverines name replaced the Groveton Tiger behind the base line on the gymnasium floor. He also was one of the group that identified four prospective fight songs from which the student body would choose one.
In his capacity as student activities director, Dietze works with coaches, students, parents and the contractors and maintenance workers responsible for the upkeep of school facilities.
Q: How have you approached your job at West Potomac?
A: The first thing is working with the partially new coaching staff, which has to become accustomed to procedures. Some of the coaches are from Fort Hunt, some from Groveton and some are from neither program. These coaches know each other to a certain extent, but not like at Fort Hunt.
The second thing is getting students in a new school to respond. School hasn't started yet, but we're concerned about the number of kids out. We need to recruit kids for our programs.
Third is incorporating the Groveton athletic boosters and the Fort Hunt athletic boosters into one Wolverine athletic program. The (Fort Hunt) Federal booster program was very active. It provided ticket selling and financial support. Groveton's was not of the size or of the financial capacity to support their program. We combined the two organizations. We have co-presidents. The tough part is over there. They are sponsoring an all-you-can-eat pep rally Aug. 28.
And fourth is making the facilities at West Potomac what I want. I plan to institute a program to renew the facilities. We resodded the middle of the field. We took off the Groveton Tiger and the colors and we put Potomac Wolverines behind the base line in the gymnasium.
Q: What are the budgetary concerns of athletic directors and student activities directors?
A: The county supports transportation, coaches' supplements, 40 percent of officials fees and utilities. The rest has to come from gate receipts and fund raising. That provides funds for the purchase of all equipment. We had to order all new equipment -- entire new uniforms for every sport. ED WILSON
Wilson has been at Wakefield for 11 years. He left T.C. Williams in 1971 when Alexandria consolidated three high schools into one. He coached basketball at Yorktown High School for three years before coming to Wakefield.
Q: What are your concerns at this time of year?
A: Playing an early football game (Aug. 30) is what concerns me. We had to pick up another game because of the closing of Fort Hunt. Everybody plays 10 games. We play Mount Vernon in the early game. We're not necessarily in their league, but we'll battle them.
It's tough to get that many kids out and get them ready by the early date. But it might be good. We don't play the second week, so we'll have two weeks to get ready for the second ball game.
Q: What else have you been preparing for?
A: I don't do any coaching. I'm busy mailing out schedules and handling contracts. We have three football teams and eight football coaches. I'm working with boys and girls cross country, which started Aug. 12. I'm working with girls tennis, the Potomac District champions the last five years, so we have a big tradition to hold up there.
Q: Are there any problems you confront that are unique to Wakefield?
A: Our biggest problem is the number of kids in school. We're running about 1,700 to 1,750. That compares favorably with others in our league. We have a large population of Oriental and Asian students. We run about 18 to 20 percent of non-English speaking students. They have to take high-intensity language courses. They don't come out for sports -- particularly football. If we could get these kids out, we'd be better off athletically.
One of our biggest goals is to get foreign minority kids out for sports. We meet with foreign language teachers and have them encourage the kids. Once in a while a kid will come out and he'll tell his friend and he'll come out, too. And it will be a nice experience. That's one thing we battle.
Another is poor attendance at games. We have to make the budget. We have 10 football games, five home and five away. We get $15,000 or $16,000 from football games. In Northern Virginia, you take out expenses for the home team and split the rest. That goes for everything. The only other sport that makes anything is boys basketball. The other sports are nonrevenue. All these other sports are supported by gate receipts from basketball and football.
A girls swimsuit is $30. We need 25 or 30 of those. So that's $900 right there. That's just an example.
The county pays salaries and some help with officials. The bulk we make at the gate.
The advantage to the situation is the autonomy. If the county paid the costs of the athletic programs, they probably also would decide how to spend it.
We talk to sporting goods companies. Three or four come around. We deal with whoever we get the best deal out of. That's one of the athletic director's responsibilities. Right now, I just checked in some baseball equipment. I have to get it logged in and stored away.
Q: As head of athletics, are you involved at all with monitoring the academic progress of athletes?
A: Every Friday at Wakefield, we monitor every student in the athletic program. They turn in a weekly eligibility form to me every Friday. And if the athlete has fallen off, he doesn't play the next week.
We don't penalize the coach and the team for practicing the kid all week, by sitting him down on the same weekend.
You still go to practice, but you don't play in the game. It's a one-week penalty. We've been doing this for eight years.
Q: How does the program work?
A: Every teacher a kid has puts down whether he's passing, absences, tardies, and comments if they wish, negative or positive. Sometimes we'll get positive comments like "great kid, good luck in the game."
There is almost total commitment from the staff on this thing. They wish we could monitor the kids not involved in athletics.
We get a few comments from kids that it's unfair. And it takes a lot of time but it works. We have an appeals procedure, if a kid says there's a mistake. Once in a while, there is a misunderstanding in the procedure.
The monitoring system is an easy way to tell when a kid is falling down. Parents like it. With weekly eligibility, the guidance department tells me more kids have an opportunity to go to college.
In the offseason, we can't monitor the athletes. We don't have the motivation factor.
I see every athlete between 2 and 2:30 on Friday afternoon. It puts me in a better situation because I'm interacting with the kids. It really helps the borderline students.