High School Athletic Directors Always Have Their Heads in the Games By: Dave Kaplan
Steve Jenkins is the proud face of Bloomfield High School athletics. Whether he’s overseeing the school’s hall of fame or scraping gum off the gym floor, nobody embodies Bengal pride more than Jenkins, who has been a BHS teacher, coach and, since 2005, enthusiastic athletic director. The affable Jenkins, a Bloomfield native and the father of two young daughters, enjoys his “destination job.” Yet he’s deeply concerned about what he sees around him. The job of athletic director—or AD—was, until recently, noted for stability. Now, at 56 and just 12 years into the job, Jenkins is second in seniority among the Super Essex Conference’s 38 ADs. Turnover and fatigue are the new realities for Jenkins’s peers. Last year, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) posted 41 vacancies. This year, the volume of openings was similar; all the positions were filled. “Clearly, the demands on an AD are changing and all-consuming,” says Jenkins. “The job description is ‘all day and after dark.’” Neil Rosa, AD at Moorestown High School and a trustee of the Directors of Athletics Association of New Jersey (DAANJ), has witnessed an increase in turnover since 2007, when the economy nose-dived and Trenton drastically cut the state’s education budget. Suddenly ADs, already accustomed to working more than 60 hours a week, were saddled with new duties. Some ADs now pull double duty as assistant principals, often overseeing student activities, discipline and an academic department—in addition to all the sports programs. Many districts have altogether eliminated the traditional athletic-director title. “Things got turned upside down in the state with those cuts,” says Rosa, who is starting his 17th year in Moorestown. “With a lot of newer ADs today, the magnitude of time away from the family, the heightened awareness of events, the extra responsibilities and external pressures—many think it’s not worth it.” For years, New Jersey high school ADs were part of an old-boys’ club; to a degree, that’s still true. There are approximately 20 women ADs among the state’s 433 member schools in the NJSIAA. The job requires many hats and long days. Forget the common perception that ADs show up at 3 pm to watch their teams play. In fact, most days start before 8 am and often extend into the evening and to many Saturdays. Coping with difficult parents is an obligatory part of the job. Functional responsibilities include coordinating program schedules; preparing and implementing budgets; making sure every team that needs a field or gym for practice has one; facilitating transportation; supervising game management and crowd control; keeping tabs on student eligibility—academic and otherwise; hiring and evaluating coaches; and overseeing intramurals. ADs are also charged with promoting a positive atmosphere within their school, with other schools and within their town.
34 | DAANJ WINTER 2017
Directors of Athletics Association of New Jersey, Inc.