Wallenpaupack Area officials have announced that longtime teacher/coach will take on the challenging position.
Starting the end of the school year Wallenpaupack Area's athletic department will be seeing some changes at the top level for the second year in a row.
Longtime coach and faculty member Ann Marie Simons will be taking on the role of Athletic Director for the Buckhorns, but unlike her predecessors, she will be won’t be doing double duty as the AD and a staff or faculty member.
Come the 2014-15 term, being an athletic director will be a full-time job.
Shifting the Rudder
Not only has Simons spent most of her life around sports, the last 25 years of it have also been spent in the classroom teaching either 7th or 8th graders Social Studies at Wallenpaupack Area Middle School.
With the AD’s position now being a full-time gig for whomever took the job, it meant giving up the classroom for any teacher who might have been eying it up.
“I looked at the position and thought it would be a neat change,” Simons said, “perhaps I could make a difference in another area, so I decided to apply.”
Embracing a “Change can be good” mentality, Simons noted that while she’ll miss teaching, now is a great time for her to look at new horizons.
She knows that she’s at a place in her life where she knows she can commit to the demands of the AD position and put in the effort needed to do the job well.
Stay the Course
As the current athletic director, Eric Keller is motivated toward having the athletic program be very student centered and Simons plans to build upon that.
“I respect what Eric has done and think it’s very positive,” she stated.
She added that she hopes to bring the student-athletes’ accomplishments, both on and off the field, to the community’s attention.
With a lot of behind the scenes things already rolling for the fall sports, Simons doesn’t feel there’s a lot of time or room to start making a lot of changes, nor does she feel that changing things right now is a big necessity.
“I haven’t really even thought about making a lot of changes,” she admitted. “I want to use the first year to discover things I may want to change in the future, but right now I want to stay focused on the students.
“The only thing I do want to do is build school and community spirit for our athletes.”
Simons has already been getting her feet wet in the new position by attending several district ADs meetings with Keller.
She has been spending some time meeting with coaches, staff, and administration in order to get up to speed with what’s looming down the road immediately.
The goal is to have a seamless transition and even though she’ll officially take the rudder most likely in June, she feels she’ll be getting some welcome direction from Keller, Mark Kirsten, and Carol Cannon for some time.
“They’ve all been so helpful already,” Simons related, “Everyone in the athletic department is very experienced and I’m going to bounce ideas off them and take their feedback.
One of her first tasks will be to get comfortable using the various computer programs to manage the schedules, contact officials, and communicate with the PIAA.
Learning how requisitions and supplies work and what all goes into keeping the fields and facilities maintained are also top priorities.
Wind in Sails
Support for her new venture comes from other places as well.
Simons’ brother, Joe Gilhool has been the AD at Montrose for many years.
Before deciding to pursue the Paupack position, she got some good advice from her brother by discussing the specifics of the job, the pros and cons, and the elations and frustrations that come with being an AD.
Also providing support is Simons’ husband and Paupack golf coach, Bob, who was once, many years ago, and assistant athletic director and knows what the demands of her new position will be.
“We’ve always backed each other 100% when we’ve coached and just like in the past, he’s behind me all the way,” she chimed.
Concluding, Simons made no bones about the fact that being an AD can be challenging. She knows that there will be difficulties along the way and she’s prepared to meet them.
“We have a lot of experienced coaches and a very supportive staff,” she pointed out, “I’m working with good people who make the best decisions for the kids.”