Kevin Bryant has written the book on being an athletic director — literally: “The Athletic Director Survival Guide.” He has spoken to high school ADs around the country and has been an athletics administrator at both the high school and collegiate levels.
Yet not even his own book — nor his numerous seminars, nor his impressive resume — could have prepared him for his current duties.
Bryant is the athletic director for the Redmond School District; not an uncommon position in Oregon (12 others are district ADs who oversee high schools throughout the state). But no one is performing the duties similar to Kevin Bryant: district athletic director while serving as AD for both Redmond and Ridgeview high schools.
“It’s one of the things that attracted me to the job was the challenge,” says Bryant, 59. “I’ve been able to speak in 15 different states to high school ADs, and I’ve never seen this arrangement. It’s really interesting, obviously challenging. I’ve always wanted to be a district athletic director, so when this opportunity came up, it felt like it could be a unique fit.”
This past May, the Redmond School District announced it was consolidating its two high school athletic director positions into a single post. Tony Pupo, the school district’s director of operations, says the decision was made as a cost-saving measure and something the district had been considering since the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. (Pupo notes that the district has saved more than $75,000 by merging the AD positions.)
Bryant saw the opening and pursued it — with a little help from Pupo. While Bryant was concerned about how effective he could be, he recalls Pupo saying, “I just don’t think you’ve been at a place that fits all your skills.”
That was an encouraging sentiment for Bryant. And after the fall season — his first at the Redmond district AD helm — Bryant is certain this is the place for him.
“This is a great fit and it’s a super busy job and I’m a high-energy person,” says Bryant, a graduate of Sunset High in Portland and Western Washington University whose wife lives in Beaverton. “To be able to do so many different things fits me. I wouldn’t be very good at just being at one place doing the same thing every day. The variety of opportunities, whether it’s with parents or administrators or fundraising or budget or facilities, is really enjoyable to me.”
Bryant has not one office but two, splitting time each day at Redmond and Ridgeview high schools located about 5 miles apart. He ensures that coaches, athletes and administrators are aware of his daily schedule, which includes scheduling contests and representing the school district at league and state meetings. Bryant oversees each school’s athletic budget, oversees facilities and is at the forefront of hiring new coaches.
“Kevin, I don’t know when he sleeps,” laughs Angela Capps, Redmond High’s sixth-year girls basketball coach. “I mean, this guy is working nonstop.”
Upon the district’s announcement to have one athletic director for the district, Capps was one of many who was curious how the setup would work. And Jeff Vallie believed the decision to be misguided.
“When I first heard the idea, I thought, ‘Man, that’s a horrible mistake. How is one guy going to run two different programs?’” recalls Vallie, Ridgeview’s sixth-year swim coach. “But since I’ve gotten to know Kevin, he’s doing one heck of a job.”
Bryant was quick to ease any tensions. Capps remembers the newcomer contacting every head coach in the district and meeting with them one-on-one. Since, Bryant has organized coaches’ meetings not only at each high school but also as a whole — Redmond and Ridgeview coaches together.
“That’s never happened,” Capps says. “He just kind of jumped in with both feet and has put in a tremendous amount of time and effort to bring our district together with a common theme for athletics.”
Within that common theme is a program called SALT — student-athlete leadership teams, composed of students at each high school who provide feedback on their respective athletic programs. Bryant also invites feedback from the community, asking what an ideal athletic program should look like in Redmond.
“How can we craft a purposeful focus on character and skills so that we’re building those things on purpose, technique, tactic and character?” says Bryant, who has a doctorate in sport pedagogy and character education. “That’s one of the advantages of being the district AD is I get to oversee (the process) and help manage it.”
Bryant, who was voted by the Oregon Athletic Directors Association as Oregon’s athletic director of the year while at Tigard High School in 2005 and was most recently the AD at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, Washington, concedes that one of the biggest drawbacks to supervising two high schools is the challenge of being accessible to coaches. But, Capps assures, “He’s totally accessible.”
“He’s actually showed up to my swim practices,” Vallie says. “First AD in over 20 years of coaching high school swimming that I’ve had one show up to a practice. Just to watch.”
Certainly Bryant’s daily schedule is stuffed to the gills, yet he still wants to — needs to, really — make time to be seen. He wants the community to know how invested he is in both Redmond and Ridgeview athletics. After all, Bryant says, he is in a position like none other in Oregon high school sports.
Of course Bryant recognizes the “strong” and “spirited” rivalry between the two Redmond high schools. (He prefers not to use the term “heated.”) In fact, this year will be the first to feature an “R Town Showdown” trophy, awarded to the school that wins more intracity matchups, fares better at the state level and, similar to the OSAA’s Oregonian Cup, boasts higher GPA scores among teams. This trophy, Bryant says, is a “fun way to engage the sport program all year long” and “captures all sports as equal.”
Bryant says the fall season went about as smoothly as it could have in terms of transition. Vallie was one of many who quickly scrapped the “this is a mistake” mentality and came around to the concept of a single athletic director overseeing two high schools. In fact, Vallie says, “I think this could work out well.”
“I was as nervous about this as anybody, and I’m super excited about what’s happened,” says Pupo, the school district’s director of operations. “It’s too early to judge anything at this point, but Kevin’s been able to do above and beyond. … I’ve been really happy with what he’s been able to do. Maybe not everybody could have done that, but Kevin’s pretty special when it comes to this. This is what he does and what he’s passionate about. So he goes above and beyond, for sure.”
“I just think, I’m the luckiest guy in the whole world to be able to do this job, and every day I get to be around kids and coaches and parents, and I just feel really blessed to be able to do it every day,” Bryant says. “I know I can do it better, and I’m going to keep trying to do it better, but it’s a very humbling job every day. You see ways you can be better. What I don’t want to do is let down the community in any way.”
Reprinted from the Bend Bulletin – Grant Lucas: firstname.lastname@example.org.