Fortunately, at Hunterdon Central—a 3,000-student regional school serving five municipalities—that was not the case with Rossi’s successor, Michael Raymond, who completed his first year as AD last spring after 16 years as the school’s baseball coach. Rossi worked closely with his protégé in his final months at Hunterdon Central, going over every detail of the job. “There’s so much to learn,” says Raymond, citing the school’s 33 different programs, each its own world. “Track,” he says, “is so different than softball in terms of its culture, everything.” Overly involved parents and old-school coaches are often recipes for conflict. Typically, the athletic director gets the brunt. “The attribute of any good AD is: Be a good listener,” says Rossi, who retired in 2016 after 24 years at Hunterdon Central. “As a parent myself, you relate to the pain and anguish of parents, if it’s their kid’s playing time or whatever, and you need to communicate that to the coaches.” These days, shrinking budgets and declining participation are forcing ADs to make tough decisions about eliminating some varsity sports or freshman and middle-school programs. To survive, a growing number of high school hockey programs have entered co-ops with neighboring schools. Yet decisions concerning smaller, albeit less expensive, programs often put ADs on the public hot seat. This past June, when A.L. Johnson High students in Clark pleaded at an emotional Board of Education meeting for continuation of their sports—cross country, tennis and swimming—they were told the decision rested with Gus Kalikas, the school’s AD. Kalikas says all of the programs were restored, and that tennis was never in jeopardy. If high school athletics come down to the bottom line, state legislation related to high school sports has gone over the top, according to Rosa. In 2016-17, more than 50 bills required NJSIAA action on new rules and procedures, many medical related. The association passes the changes to the state’s ADs to implement. “I’m blown away by the amount of state legislation we deal with now,” says Rosa. “Assemblymen worrying about how much money is charged for state tournaments? Aren’t there more important things to worry about?” All of these factors take a toll on educators like Sebastian Powell, a track coach and teacher, who served as Belvidere High’s AD for only one year before leaving for an assistant principal job in Bloomfield. “My wife forbids me from even thinking of applying for another [AD] job,” says Powell. Dave Kaplan is the former director of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center. He lives in Montclair.
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Directors of Athletics Association of New Jersey, Inc.