Taking over for long-time Brownsburg Athletic Director Greg Hill, Kelli Waggoner comes to the Bulldogs in her first full season as AD this year. Hendricks County Flyer Sports Editor Jake Thompson recently sat down with Waggoner for a question and answer session.
You previously started your own consulting firm. What made you interested in the athletic director position here in Brownsburg?
I was a student-athlete here at Brownsburg so I’m an alum that had two boys that were fortunate enough to play athletics here. For the last six years I’ve been the varsity assistant for the girls’ basketball program, so I grew up here, played here, been around for a number of years and was ready to do something, a career change. This became available, so I applied and was lucky enough to be selected for the position.
Where do you feel your biggest contributions to Brownsburg athletics lie?
Probably on the area of running my own business. I understand budgets and meeting payrolls and those types of things from the very beginning. My philosophical view of the athletic department is you have the corporation and a subsidiary of the corporation, being the high school and the high school has then those areas under it where the athletic department is a subsidiary of the high school. Under me there are my divisions with my coaches. We have 20 IHSAA sanctioned sports at Brownsburg. It’s my job to manage all 20 of the divisions we have underneath the athletic department. It’s the background that I’ve had for the last 23 years of having my own business of how to do that. We’ve had increased costs in transportation and so how do we deal with that? We need to encourage multi-sport athletes. It really is communication skills, organizational skills that I’ve probably sharpened because of owning my own business and having that opportunity for the last 23 years.
You’ve held the position for about three months now, what would be the biggest challenges so far?
Biggest challenges have probably just been organization. I think people don’t realize what goes into the whole athletic department. It’s a self-reliant segment of the Brownsburg Community Schools. They have their own budget. What they raise is what they spend. We’re fortunate enough to have really positive and supportive corporations and parents and boosters in the community so we’ve been really fortunate for that, but quite honestly, it’s the organization.
Brownsburg High School has a history of quality fundraising in the community. How do you plan to continue that?
My role is to get out and be a spokesperson for the athletic department and that means … we have a great product, we’ve got great student-athletes. If you look at our grade point averages with regards to where most of our teams are, we’ve got a great product, got a great product on the field, and on the floor. So it’s getting out and communicating with our local businesses. Like I said, IU Health, BillEstes.com, C.F. Roark have been our three real anchor sponsors but we also have several on the scoreboard that stepped up and helped pay for things like that and we can’t thank them enough. And my job is to get out and promote the product that we have here and that’s one, great student athletes, and two, good competition.
What’s your objective or your plan for your first year here at Brownsburg?
I have four of what I would call guiding principles in every decision that I make for that department. All of those, quite honestly, are to have better communication and more communication with our head coaches, the administration, Brownsburg Community Schools and athletes. Two, more and better communication, more and better organization. That’s from either, again, communicating or letting people know what’s going on. The third one would be, everything we do we need to do it consistently across the board. It doesn’t matter gender, it doesn’t matter what the sport is. All student-athletes deserve to have the same resources. It would be consistency and to do everything we do in the office as efficiently as possible. That really, over the next year, in every decision I make will try to apply those principles. If we’re not meeting that, I’m sure I will adjust to do that. That’s the goal. To look at all four of those things.
Can you talk about sportsmanship and what that means to you?
We talk about athletics at Brownsburg High School is not a right, it’s a privilege. With privileges like that come higher expectations. First and foremost, they are a student and they have to get things done in the classroom. And then we have a code of conduct for student-athletes and that’s obviously sportsmanship on and off the playing fields and floors. So when you represent Brownsburg athletics, you’re representing your self, your team, your family and your community. So, that’s first and foremost.
What do you feel is the purpose of competition or sports at the high school level?
I think it’s a great development tool for young men and women. It teaches time management. It teaches sportsmanship. It teaches how to deal with conflict. It’s a tool they’ll use the rest of life, no matter what business or career they decide upon whether in college or a post graduate level. It’s got a lot of the team building you may not get in the terms of siblings if you’re an only child. A perfect example is organizational skills. You have to juggle lots of things and you have the opportunity to do that and be successful later in life. Again, team building, conflict resolution, conflict management, organizational skills, and time management. It’s a great way for young people to learn.
Can you talk about your view on student-athlete’s using social media?
Social media can be a really good friend or a big enemy. I know some of our coaching staff has rules now that some of our student-athlete’s can’t tweet after a certain time at night, at a certain time on a school night or night before a game or that kind of thing. Most of those coaches have made it a mandatory requirement that the athlete must allow them to follow them. I think that’s cut down on a lot of things that student-athlete’s have to think about before they tweet. It’s no different when I talked to the incoming freshmen class in freshmen boot camp, and we talk about this at our parent meetings; you do not want anything said on twitter that you wouldn’t want your grandparents to read. I do think coaches are paying much more attention to what athletes are saying on their twitter account and they know that and so I think they’ve cleaned that up.
Do you feel as if the size of the facility is adequate? If not or if so, what would you change?
I think being a central Indiana school that an indoor facility would be something that would be very beneficial for our outdoor sports. It’s difficult to get space in the winter for our football and baseball programs because they want to hit inside and our tennis program and our golf program. Those spring sports in Indiana you don’t know if it’s going to snow over spring break or if it’s going to be 80. I think, what I call a three-P, or private-public partnership with either the town and the parks department and the school system where we could come together, the three of us, and put together some kind of indoor facility that all of us could utilize. Again, our indoor track season starts in February. So you have to have a place to run and you have to have a place to hit tennis balls. It truly is looking at something like that. Our gym is an adequate size. You are always looking for practice facilities. We have a beautiful new outdoor athletic complex where we will be able to host band competitions for the first time in an adequate size facility and we have one scheduled for Sept. 14. We’re going to utilize that. For the most part, we’ve got great facilities and we’ve been blessed with, again, our supporters and financiers. However, an indoor facility is something that would be beneficial, primarily for our spring sports.
Can you talk about the importance of being a multiple sport athlete and the difficulties of getting the kids to embrace that?
That’s a great question and one we continue to push with our head coaches. I have to say our head coaches, particularly our boys have sat down on a periodic basis to sit down and talk about kids to make sure they’re not being overused in the summer. So, if you’re lifting for football, then basketball knows where you are and what you’re doing. So, that’s great, go lift for football. Our coaches are very careful when we have a student-athlete in season to make sure that’s what they only do. If they show up for a basketball open gym, they’re told they can’t do anything because it’s important. I think it’s important for students to understand that your body needs a rest. When you play a different sport, different muscles are used. The thing is, college scholarships are the prize. I don’t know the statistics, but very few high school athletes that are fortunate enough to go on and play at college for a Division I scholarship and there are a few DII things they can get. It’s our job to encourage kids to get the full student-athlete experience here at Brownsburg High School and that full experience means playing whatever you can because you only have four years, so they might as well enjoy it. If that means playing two sports and also being in the band and choir and those types of things, then the more power to them. It’s our job to encourage and educate children and students on those kinds of activities.
Can you talk about how you ensure the safety regulations are adhered to here in the school?
Well, first of all, we have a great training staff given to us by IU Health and our engagement with IU Health and Methodist Sports Medicine. It’s their responsibility to one; make sure our facilities are safe and two; that our athletes are at their utmost ability to perform in those different contests. We have to put the personnel together first and we’ve done that thru IU Health and Methodist Sports Medicine and then we have additional training for all of our head coaches both in CPR, AED and concussion. It’s now a state law that all students must have a concussion impact test and baseline. We’ve done that for all sports. We even do that for our non-contact sports just in case something would happen and we’d have to have a baseline for that. We have a team physician through IU Health that’s here through the week to review what the athletic trainer’s have done all week. We’ve done things through heat indexes. Thank goodness this summer we haven’t had as much. Really, it’s working hand-in-hand with our training staff.
How important is it to educate athletes at the prep level about PED’s and drug use?
I think they get some of that through their health classes here at the high school. We do communicate that with our head coaches and our athletic training staff. We have a weight lifting program, strength and conditioning program, through coach Bryan Neese that does a good job. He reviews some of those kinds of things as well. Being a student-athlete here we talk about expectations and higher expectations. There is random drug testing and that are the types of things student-athletes are going to be exposed to if, in fact, that happens. It’s not as much at this level, but we do talk about it primarily through strength and conditioning and athletic training.
Can you talk about the different sports team’s battle for money and making sure each program is getting what they need?
I talked about teamwork in our head coaches meeting this morning and what that means. And that is we’re all on the same team working together shoulder to shoulder in the area of trust and commitment. Our head coaching staff’s have really stepped up. We’ve increased accountability and transparency and expectations of them. They know what the revenue sports are and they work within those guidelines. They all have a budget and have their own account to the point of knowing what is in their accounts and what has been taken out of their accounts. I truly do think we are working together on that issue. Would they always like to have more? Absolutely. But as we continue to grow and get better in our organization and efficiency and that sort of thing, they’re going to benefit form that, just like I’m going to benefit from it.
Can you talk about the Hoosier Crossroads Conference and the loss of the Lafayette schools and the need to possibly add more teams to the conference?
That will take place in the 2014-15 school year. It has been decided we will stay a 10-team conference for the next year to two years. That allows football to play outside the conference which a number of the football teams would really like to do. At this point, there’s not any planning that I’m aware of — and that really takes place at the principal’s level because they are the one’s that actually have the vote in the conference. So, at this point, there’s been no discussion about adding teams.
Since transportation costs continue to skyrocket, can you talk about that and the difficulties faced with the fluctuation in gas prices and the difficulty of budgeting for the unknown?
It’s very difficult and that’s been a challenge from the beginning. I’m not the only one. The band department, the choir department, the extra-curricular activities; all of us have had to tighten our belt and figure out how to do that. Ways we’ve figured out is look at making sure all of our teams in the varsity, junior varsity and freshman level travel together on the same bus. Before you may have a freshman team going one direction and a junior varsity and varsity team going another. It’s sitting down and literally working with our CFO and COO, which we’ve done to look at a true schedule of buses that are taken and cutting. We now have what we call a travel squad for football. We’ve taken three buses to away games over the last three or four years because of our numbers, which are great that they’ve continued to increase. But with that’s a cost. Coach Comer and I’ve worked on this and they’re going to have a travel squad where they’ll take two buses instead of three to an away game. For him, I think he sees it as helping with competition during the week so it’s good for him and may increase the efficiency of his practices. We’ve had to do that. We’ve had to take some of the freshmen teams and reduce the numbers we can keep on a freshmen team or a lower level team because they may use a smaller bus, or an activity bus, as opposed to a yellow bus where a bus driver is needed. It’s a challenge, but as anything I think it’s a good challenge because it continues to make us look at things the way we organize them and if we are being consistent with things across all genders of sports. My efficiency is making sure we’re doing it the best possible way that we can.
For more of this question and answer dialogue with Brownsburg Athletic Director Kelli Waggoner, visit the website at www.flyergroup.com.