WILMINGTON – If you were among the 25 or so people who were on-hand or you have watched it on WCTV, perhaps you will agree that two of the three finalists for the Wilmington High School Athletic Director's job had strong nights, and seemed to have both made this into a two-person race.
Last Thursday night in the Large Group Instruction Room at Wilmington High School, Wilmington's Brian Caira, a multi-sport coach and teacher at the middle school, current Windham, New Hampshire AD Mike McCaffrey, and current interim AD at Weymouth High Mia Muzio, each met with parents and coaches for a half hour Q&A session.
Most of the questions centered around the number of issues with WHS Athletics: poor culture, lack of funds, lack of fans at games, old uniforms and equipment, lack of support for the student-athletes and teams; lack of communication/transparency with the youth athletic leagues in town; lack of field time and space; administrators/coaches not promoting the teams and athletes whether with college programs and coaches as well as with social media, while there were other issues and concerns.
After watching the first half live and the second half off WCTV's website, I thought Muzio and Caira were outstanding. They were both extremely forthcoming, and both had good ideas of how to fix many of the aforementioned problems.
Caira was extremely passionate, and played his card of being from town very well, as he should. Muzio was extremely effective with her responses to every question asked. She was extremely organized and had well thought out plans and solutions. McCaffrey was a distant third in my mind because he danced around a handful of questions and his response about not tweeting out scores of games didn't sit well with a lot of people and another local media member, not just myself.
In my opinion, Wilmington High School needs an Athletic Director who fixes all of those problems mentioned above, but above all promotes the high school, the teams, the coaches and above all the student-athletes every step of the way. That includes all social media (Twitter especially), all websites and all newspapers.
The new AD also needs to have a competitive side to help teach the coaches and athletes on how to get better. The new AD also needs a backbone, and needs to stand up to parents when Jimmy or Jennifer don't play, and also get rid of a coach when there simply needs to be a change.
If the culture of WHS Athletics needs an overhaul, maybe they should look at what other programs are doing. For example next door at Tewksbury, almost every sporting event there's coaches from other programs supporting those teams and tweeting out scores and highlights. When it comes to the coaches and athletes themselves, there's always the comments about how special it is to be from Tewksbury, to wear the 'T' on their shirt, to 'win or lose with their brothers and sisters'. The kids will talk about their love for the sport, their coach, their teammates and how the team "buys-in".
It is not often you hear those things in Wilmington.
If the town of Wilmington is serious about fixing the problems with athletics, there's another easy solution which I have stated for years: pay your coaches as much as surrounding towns do. In addition, hire and pay varsity assistants to help head coaches run practices, develop their student-athletes, keep kids interested and help with team chemistry.
Wilmington coaches have taken a beating in the public eye over the years, but they can only work with what they have been dealt.
There's an attendance problem here at WHS, too. So there's some easy fixes for that. First, stop scheduling non-league games against teams no one ever heard of, or against teams that will bring in 12 people. Utilize the turf field and the gymnasium and have more night games – not 4:00 pm or 5:30 starts, but 7 pm. Make a phone call to the town next to you and get the rivalry with Tewksbury – in all sports – back. You can schedule doubleheaders in soccer, hockey, lacrosse, etc.
You can also do these things with the new rivals from Stoneham and Burlington.
In addition to that, you can schedule invitational meets in track, tournaments for other sports teams that can bring in anywhere from 3 to 30 teams. Those things bring in people, money and of course lots of publicity.
If you want to fix the budget problem, there's several smaller things you can do. Like Caira mentioned, there should be youth camps for all of the athletic programs and not just soccer and basketball. You can run day clinics, too.
One of the biggest things you can do is utilize the brand new high school, gymnasium, tennis courts, field turf, track, the Dick Scanlon Memorial Baseball Field as well as the gorgeous Yentile Farm complex. Either have all of the Wilmington youth programs share those fields and courts when the high school teams aren't there, and/or rent out the gymnasium and host a number of different events.
You can also have events with alumni – surely you can get 100 former athletes of a program together for a social gathering with the money going back to those programs.
I haven't even discussed the proposed new ice rink and the possibilities you could do there, but I think you get my drift.
There's lots and lots of work to be done here and there's many ways to fix all of these problems. It's not going to happen over night and some issues may take years or never get resolved. But from what I watched with my own eyes and then online from the other night, both Caira and Muzio seem to have a really good grasp on the problems and how they would address them. I actually think both of them collectively would solve so many problems, and with a little creativity perhaps both could be added in some capacity?
This job will not be easy. After 27 years here with the Town Crier and working for various other papers, magazines and websites over the years, I have dealt with a lot of Athletic Directors and I have seen what works and doesn't work. My message to the next WHS AD is come ready to work, and get your hands extremely dirty each and every day. If you are here to fully invest in this town for the long haul, and invest in ALL of the children here in town, then we would love to have you on board and you can see for yourself how wonderful this community can be.