Bound™ Exclusive: The DNA of an AD (Chapter 4)

If you don’t have passion for your role as an athletics administrator, you’ll never be an effective leader. The best athletic leaders have a fire that burns deep within their DNA.

Bound™ Exclusive: The DNA of an AD (Chapter 4)

The Passionate Leader

"Find Your Passion & Its No Longer Work. It’s making A Positive Impact on the Lives of Others.” – Unknown

If you don’t have passion for your role as an athletics administrator, you’ll never be an effective leader. The best athletic leaders have a fire that burns deep within their DNA. They’re so passionate about what they’re doing that they’re willing to work long hours and sacrifice to accomplish their goals.

ADs see their vision clearly and are 100% committed to making it a reality. Passion is infectious. When you, as an athletic leader, are passionate about reaching your objectives, it causes others to be passionate as well.

Steve Jobs put it this way:

"You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out."

Of course, this raises an important question. What should you do if you’re not passionate?

If you’re not passionate about your role as an athletic administrator, it means one of two things:

  • First, it could mean that you’re in the wrong profession. It’s hard to be passionate about a job that you really don’t care about. If you have zero passion for your job, it’s a signal that you’re probably in the wrong profession  and may be better served elsewhere.
  • Second, it could mean that you haven’t set ambitious enough goals for yourself. It’s difficult to be passionate about small, mediocre goals. It’s hard to care about goals that don’t really add much value to your personal or professional life.

    On the other hand, lofty goals are much more motivating. They allow you to wake up every morning with a sense of purpose and drive. They push you to achieve great things. If you’re not feeling passionate, maybe you need to set bigger goals for yourself.

Ultimately, passion flows out of vision. If you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish within your athletics department  and can see the great good that it will accomplish, you’ll be passionate. If, on the other hand, your vision is blurry and you’re not sure what you want to accomplish, you won’t have the passion to effectively serve your student-athletes, coaches and school community.

Why is it important for leaders to be passionate?

Passionate Leaders elevate productivity and ensure coaches  are committed to your school’s vision, mission and core values. Passion eventually leads to mastery and success, in large part because you are always thinking and working on the goals you're passionate about.

Passionate leaders are fully engaged and committed to achieving their goals while helping others achieve theirs. When you're in the presence of a passionate leader, you are stimulated to achieve excellence in all you do – your emotions are stirred as you pick up their positive, contagious energy.

“Attitudes Are Contagious, Is Yours Worth Catching?” - Unknown

Advice from the DNA AD Pool

Passionate -"Passion is a necessary ingredient to be a successful athletic administrator. Combined with a clear vision for the future, passionate leaders drive programs to new heights through engagement, excitement, and a desire to make a difference. Without passion, leaders are ordinary." Becky Moran C.M.A.A. Director of Athletics, Round Lake

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” Jimmy Johnson

Perseverance - “Is not only a physical ability to overcome a challenge. It is also the mental ability to overcome. It’s the ability to take any setback and use it as your platform for greater victories yet to come.” Tim Moses, Waterloo East Athletics Director

Enthusiastic - “Enthusiasm in this role is about injecting positivity into the entire school culture. It’s about bringing contagious energy that others what to be around. Showing up every day to be a driver and sounding board for innovation can not be done without being enthusiastic about what we do.”  Scott Breyfogle, Woodbine Athletics Director

Inspirational - “Inspirational, the art of inspiring, happens when many different factors come together in a person's leadership.  You inspire when you are passionate about what you do, competent in the skills that it takes to do it, able to get along and be authentic with the people you are doing it with and are also very aware of who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are and humble enough to continue to grow and learn.” Todd Gordon, Greene County Athletics Director

Relentless - “As an Athletic Administrator we work in a competitive environment. It is necessary at times to be relentless when faced with subjective opposition and a lack of respect for what may be best for students and the program. Being prepared to educate others with facts and reason are integral to the position. Developing a collegial and collaborative team approach also contributes to a positive environment. Taking the lead requires confidence in one’s ability and a drive to achieve excellence. Utilizing your team members’ strengths in strategic areas will galvanize the group and deliver a consistent message.” Charles J. Gonsalves C.M.A.A., Retired Athletics Director

Perseverance- “Many words come to mind when I think of adjectives that describe who athletic directors are and what we do. Of course, there is an expectation that we have outstanding leadership and organizational skills, patience, creativity, people skills, a great vision, and professionalism, to name a few. However, when I think of the duties and responsibilities of athletic directors performed daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, the word perseverance comes to mind. Whether it is difficulties we face, obstacles that we have to overcome, or disappointments we encounter. To persevere allows us to grow and learn through all of our experiences. I believe it is one of the best character traits that, as athletic directors, we can model for our coaches and student-athletes.”  Rhonda Dreibelbis C.A.A. Athletic Director Durham Public Schools

Dedicated - “In order to establish the program you and the school seek for your community you have to be dedicated and do things the right way. Dedication relates to Consistency. It takes time to change a culture or to establish a well-run program.”   Jeffrey Koops, C.M.A.A., Director of Athletics, International School of Ulaanbaatar

Passion - “Having passion for something means that it goes far deeper than what people see on the surface. That something, whatever it may be, is a part of your identity. It helps define your very being, your aspirations, your attitude. It is ingrained in your heart and work ethic. It is what drives you to success, however measurable that may be to an individual. In order to be happy in different aspects of your life, passion must exist.”  Mary Schultz, Athletic Director Westbury Central

Determined - “Athletic Administrators must possess a super human power called determination. Obstacles come our way out of the blue, we have to be dedicated to our kids, our coaches and our vision for the school and our programs. We never know when a fire may break out and require our attention, but we cannot let the momentary issue derail our dedication to the overall mission.”  Dr. Dustin Smith, EdD C.M.A.A., Director of Athletic Operations and Student Activities, Greenwood Public Schools

The Passionate Leader - Living with Passion…

As an athletics administrator, when you have passion, you have an energy that allows you to achieve your goals and vision for your athletic department. Passion and Purpose helps you get out of bed in the morning and seize the day! But what can you do when you feel like you've lost your passion? As we all know there are days when we question our Why?

How Passion Benefits You
There are many benefits to being a passionate athletics administrative leader. With an invigorating passion for your role as a servant leader, you can enjoy sustainable energy that motivates and inspires you. You'll also enjoy more leisure time, quality relationships and people will be drawn to you. You'll also enjoy an enthusiasm for life that can last a lifetime. It all starts with this simple thing called passion!

“Practice with a Purpose, Play with a Passion.” - Unknown

Developing Greater Passion
Everyone has their own unique path to developing greater passion in their lives. Experiment with different strategies to find something that works for you.

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” – Vince Lombardi

Keep the following tips in mind as you seek your passion and purpose as an athletics administrator.

1. Follow your vision. Following your passion and purpose is not a fairytale; it's what you're supposed to do in life! If you've lost your passion, chances are you've been working towards a goal that's not your true goal. It's time to evaluate your priorities.

Once you're on a path to your true purpose, you'll find your passion again.

2. Consider religion and spirituality. Maybe it's time to get more in touch with your spiritual side. Many faiths deal with life's tougher questions and they also provide purpose. When you discover your purpose and feel it, you'll also find passion.

3. Develop relationships. It's always a good idea to delve deeper into your relationships. When you keep things fresh and try new things, you may also discover your passion. You'll look forward to new life events when everything is not as mundane.

Get To Know Yourself and Your Values

If you're still confused when it comes to finding your passion, perhaps it'll help to take stock of your true values. Take a moment to write down your values. It might seem like a mindless exercise, but when you see everything written down on paper it may provide you with some clarity.

Everyone will have a different set of values; it's what makes us as athletics directors unique. Once you've narrowed down your values, you can begin to see how you can be intentional with them each day.

Enjoy Life’s Special Moments
Are you too caught up in preparing for a better future?

When you only care about having a good life in the future, you forget about the now, which is discouraging and burdensome. Your happiness doesn't reside in the future - it's right here, right now!

As an athletics director you are extremely busy, it's important to make yourself a priority. Commit to taking a portion out of each day for yourself. It could be as few as 15 minutes, but it'll make a difference.

Initially, you can use this time to plan out how you can follow interests that you feel passionate about. Build a plan and take action. It can be difficult to get past the planning stages, but following through with your plans is the most important part.

Small Incremental Steps Can Lead to Greatness
Your small incremental steps spent pursuing your passions can result in spectacular results. When you actually see the proof of your dreams realized, it'll feed even more passion. Your new goal will be to avoid breaking your successful new pattern. Keep making yourself, family and friends a priority and you'll re-discover the passion in your life!

“Hard Days are the Best Because That's when Champions are Made.” - Gabby Douglas

About Scott Garvis

Scott Garvis has been a leader and innovator in intercollegiate and interscholastic athletics development and fundraising for more than 25 years – as an athletics director, coach, association board member, adviser and editorial contributor.

Scott has a record of excellence as Athletics Director, Director of Activities and Assistant Principal, having led the athletics departments at six high schools or school districts in three states.  He has achieved unparalleled success at all levels of high school athletics: large public school districts, a small public high school, a private school, and with state and national athletics administrator associations.