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Grad Spotlight: Continuing Your Education as an Administrator and Athletic Director

April 4, 2024

Clairinda Weatherwax graduated from OHIO's Master of Science in Athletic Administration (MAA) program. We asked her about her experience and how the MAA's curriculum helped her further her athletic director career.

I am an athletic director and assistant principal at Bradshaw Mountain High School at Humboldt Unified School district, which is in Prescott Valley, Arizona. I have been in this role for five years. Prior, I was an AD in a different state for three years.

Q: What made you want to be an athletic director?

Clairinda Weatherwax: I was a social studies teacher for the middle school, and I coached volleyball and basketball at the middle school. I had been coaching since I was 19 years old, and I really thought my life was going to be a teacher and a coach. When I started to investigate the MAA program, I realized I can impact more kids than just the teams that I'm coaching. That's really what got me into this field.

Q: Why did you choose the MAA at Ohio University?

Weatherwax: What I loved about the MAA program was the cohorts. I knew by being in cohorts that I had other people that I could talk to and really delve into what we were going to be working on and see if being an athletic director was what I really, truly wanted to do. I also liked that we had to come to campus a couple of times throughout the two years. You get to meet these people in person and have some time with them and build better bonds. That was the key thing for me.

Working with people across the United States provides different perspectives of how things happen in their districts or their state. It gives you different ideas of how you can contribute to your own school. I don't think anyone sits as an athletic director on an island. What's great about being an athletic director is all the people that you can reach out to. We're all going through the same thing. When you start talking to those connections that you've had through the MAA program, you can tap into a huge network that gives you the strength and the knowledge that you're not alone.

Q: Which MAA courses helped you the most?

Weatherwax: One of the courses deals with budgets, which is not my favorite thing to do. Some classes included a lot of scenarios. In both situations, having the cohorts helped tremendously because we were working as a team. I would say every class I had helped me, but those two I remember the most!

Q: How would you describe the faculty in the MAA program?

Weatherwax: One always stands out, and that's Aaron Wright. I’m still in contact with him to this day. I got elected to be the AIAAA president for next year, so I reached out to him before the school year started for some guest speakers. And as always, he’s been super helpful. But I truly remember that every teacher I had was always helpful and very responsive.

Q: Talk to me about any NIAAA certifications that you have earned

Weatherwax: I got my RAA, and then I went on to attain my CAA. Then, just this past summer, I completed my CMAA.

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Q: What was the process for earning your CMAA certification?

Weatherwax: I knew how important continuing your education is as an administrator and an athletic director. You go through this path and you take these classes, and they make you a better athletic director because they make you think of things that you normally wouldn't think of unless it happens at your school. I knew I had to do a project as a part of the process, and I think like many athletic directors, I stressed out about that wondering what I could possibly do. I had started a PTSA, which is a parent teacher, student association, but I didn't even think of it as my project because it was just something that the school needed to help our programs grow. I realized in talking to other ADs, that's my project! I did the oral presentation over Zoom and passed! Earning my CMAA really made me proud knowing that I can be a better AD for my school and our students.

Q: What are some of your primary challenges as an athletic director?

Weatherwax: Learning how to talk to parents, especially when they voice concerns. You use the training that you've received to make sure you're a better listener and make sure that the right outcome happens. Sometimes it isn't always what the parent likes, but it's what the school district's policies are. When you come into a new school as an athletic director, you're always trying to make sure that parents, coaches, and students are comfortable with changes that you're wanting to make because you're always wanting to make the programs better. My MAA really helped that transition because of the real-life scenarios I worked on with individuals that were on the same path as myself.

Q: What has really made you proud to be an athletic director?

Weatherwax: Some of the real highlights of being an athletic director are where you can see the growth in the students as they come through the program. During COVID, we were struggling to find coaches for my boys’ soccer team, so I had the team on a Zoom meeting and said, "We don’t have a coach, but if you want, I can coach you." I actually pulled in a football coach to help who didn't know about soccer either. The kids were so nice. They said, “Miss Weatherwax, you can do it! We will help you.” I coached them for two months before I could hire a coach. Several of them are seniors this year, so they kind of have a special place in my heart. I always love watching them play. I love to be their announcer at half time! Those relationships with those kids have made me the proudest because I can see how much they've grown and just how great they're going to be when they graduate.

Q: What is it like to be both an athletic director and assistant principal?

Weatherwax: It takes a lot to balance having a dual role as an assistant principal and athletic director. The dual role is more common in some states. When I was an athletic director in Kansas, I started off in a dual role, but shifted strictly to be an athletic director after talking with my principal because I just didn’t have the support staff to allow me to do both roles well. In Arizona, the dual role is going well for me because my admin staff and I really work as a team. We help each other out. My staff is here to help me on both fronts, so I know I'm not going to be here late every night, and this allows me to spend time with my family as well.

Q: What advice would you give aspiring athletic directors?

Weatherwax: People who want to be athletic directors might think it's this cushy job where all you do is watch games. It's a huge wake-up call for some people because that's just a small percentage of what you do. You’re scheduling, making sure the refs are paid, making sure your coaches are paid, finding the right coaches for the position and the program. It's the supervision at night. It’s thinking about what kind of personnel you're going to want to bring on campus to work with your students. Then, dealing with complaints from parents or complaints from athletes or talking with a coach on how you can help them grow. Do you have the budget to support extra training for your coaches if they want to go to conferences? I've been in a school district where I was given a budget and in another district where I don't get a budget. There's a lot of things athletic directors do that people don't realize until they get into it.

If you really have the passion for it, it's so worth it to see the things that you can do on a campus and how you can change the culture. I love being an AD! An athletic director has a huge impact that can be really great and overshadow those inevitable hiccups in the road. The courses that I took at Ohio University really prepared me well for what I was going to be doing as an AD.

If you're interested in pursuing your MAA degree at OHIO, reach out to discover more. Our online MAA program is accredited by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA) and features a partnership with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) so you receive the industry-focused education you need to enter the next phase of your career. Our five decades of experience in sports education and industry-connected faculty ensure you graduate ready to make an impact as an athletic director in any K–12 institution.

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