How long have you been at Tampa Prep? “This is year 5 for me.”
What about Tampa Prep made you want to work here?
“I’m from New England, so initially, the weather brought me down to Florida. But, my wife and I had started looking at areas, being very particular about where we wanted to raise our kids and what would be best for our family. I had reached my ceiling, working in public education, because you have so many other duties that I just wasn’t able to focus on what I wanted to do. I had honestly never even considered a private school when I first saw the job ad pop up for Tampa Prep Athletic Director, but the timing was perfect.
I did my research on the school and on the area and then I interviewed with Joe Fenlon. I remember that the interview process was draining. I went through eight interview committees. But, they asked really thought provoking questions and I saw first-hand that this was an institution that values athletics and giving all kids the opportunity to play sports. Joe and Kevin (Plummer) were visionaries and their message to me was all about empowerment and growth. I saw that it was just a great fit and selfishly, I also saw that this is where I want my kids to go to school.
Over the past five years, I’ve learned that it wasn’t false advertising. The Athletics Dept. is not looked at as “it’s just sports” at Tampa Prep. It’s a really big part of who we are, outside the classroom. From the Middle School kids being able to participate on teams, to being an athlete, joining Red Shell, supporting our teams by being a spectator – I’ve seen so much positive growth.”
Tell us about the growth that you’ve seen, in the past 5 years.
“When I came to Tampa Prep, I asked every head coach the same questions: “what is our athletic philosophy, what is our mission and what is our vision?” Every answer that I got was great but they were all different. I felt that we weren’t a family – we were a bunch of different islands. So, the growth I’ve seen is really one of shared culture and shared expectations. We now have one identity. Whether an athlete goes to a fall, spring or winter sport, it’s the same culture now. We’ve also seen a lot of upgrades including the new field turf, the scoreboard, gym floor, courts, shade structure, the performance center. I’ve also seen coaching growth, because every one of our coaches now embodies our core principles. TERPS for life!”
What is your background, personally and/or professionally?
“I was born and raised in a small town in New England. As a student and athlete, I was a big fish in a small pond. I was recruited to play Division I baseball and soccer and played professionally overseas. I was able to have a great career and travel the world. It really paved the way for me to learn about hard work, putting in my best effort and being part of a team. But, 9/11 ended my career because I could no longer play overseas. In school I studied Exercise and Sports Science and never really had any intention to be involved with teaching or education. But, I got a job as a part-time PE teacher and part-time assistant athletic director and then moved up to AD. I didn’t love teaching but I really loved coaching and that’s what started my career. I just fell in love with coaching coaches. So, this is my 20th year of coaching coaches. In more of an administrative role, you miss the relationships and collegiality that you forge with students and athletes. But, it’s so important to have someone in the AD role that sets high expectations and has a growth mindset to always get better.”
Tell us something that you’re proud of.
“Personally, I’m a cancer survivor. Two weeks after my son was born, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Stage 2 lymphoma with a 50/50 chance to live or die. It’s not that I’m proud of being a survivor, because so many people have lost their lives. But, it humbled me and I am proud that it gave me an urgent sense of renewed energy to do good things. Surviving cancer changes who you are, in almost every way. It just gave me a different outlook on life. Life is short. As awful as it was, to go through, it has made me enjoy the present moments much more than I used to.
I started working on my bucket list and decided that I would no longer accept mediocrity. For me, that meant completing three half-Iron Mans, six marathons and ultra-marathons. I just started pushing my limits because it’s something that I never did before. I’m proud that I’m now living my life to the fullest and that my kids see that and say “I want to do the things that Dad is doing.”
Professionally, I’m proud that I’ve watched the athletic department evolve. We’ve gotten complete buy-in from both coaches and athletes, who now have the attitude of: “let’s get better.” I’m also proud that the state has asked me to serve on several committees, including FHSA and FIAAA. From 10 years ago, literally not knowing if I was going to live or die, to where I am now…I’m really proud of that.”
Do you remember the first time you came to this campus? What or who do you remember? Did anything or anyone in particular stand out?
I like to joke that the first time I came to campus, Phelps (John Phelps, Director of Security) escorted me off campus because I didn’t have an appointment (laughter). It wasn’t until I got inside the fence and saw what goes on inside the building that I was able to see almost immediately what a really special place it is.
Is there one co-worker that you rely on or admire? Who/why?
“Yes, there are so many of them. My initial job interview with Joe Fenlon was powerful. He paved the way for me coming to Tampa Prep. He is so genuine and has such a rich history here. Kevin Plummer is, by far, the best and most supportive supervisor that I’ve ever had. His support, his trust, his empowerment – it’s all something that I haven’t had in past jobs. When you get that kind of support, it pushes you to be better.
Eric Snow, my Assistant Athletic Director, is my right-hand man. He is so supportive and we have a great working relationship but at the same time, he’s not shy to tell me when he thinks I’m wrong. Tim Schultz (Assistant Athletic Director / Sports Information) and Zack Houghton (Strength & Conditioning Coach) were both home run hires and are so good at what they do and what they bring to the table. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about every coach on staff. We all have professional, honest relationships that I genuinely appreciate. And, we’re all on the same page in our thinking, which is ‘how do we continue to get better?’”
Which part of our mission statement do you relate to the most: Think, Create, Be Yourself, Aspire to Excellence or Go Beyond? Why?
“I relate to our Terps4Life mission statement, which is about living by our expectations and by our core principles. Show up on time. Sit in the front. Do your homework. Choose behaviors that put you in a position to win and a position to succeed. In every sport, there’s one champion but that doesn’t mean that every other team failed. The important question to answer is: Did you put yourself in a position to succeed in life?”
What is your favorite thing about Tampa Prep?
“I love that I know the names of all the students and staff. We are truly a family – a family that we all selected. It’s very intimate and it gives me a sense of pride, to be a Terrapin. I love that our school is about diversity, independence and acceptance. We’re all here to put our students in the best position to succeed. In athletic terms, this place is a championship team. That’s what Tampa Prep is.”