Dave Preheim is Concord through and through. He balances being the conduit for his community by focusing on cross departmental collaboration, trust, and work-life balance.
As told to Romy Glazer
Dave Preheim didn’t take the traditional route into athletic directing. He didn’t play a sport in high school, or coach once he got out, but his love for everything sports-related, his penchant for organization, and his openness to new ideas keeps him fresh no matter how late he’s at the office.
I’m not a morning person. In fact, I usually arrive after school starts. That’s not something you’ll often hear from other athletic directors. I’m not married and don’t have kids – so when I come to work, there’s no breaks. I’ll usually stay all the way until I’m done for the night which is sometimes 9 or 10. It’s a great arrangement I have with my assistant AD. We stagger our schedules. He’s got kids, so he’ll come in early and head out to see them, and then I come in a little later and stay until all the games are done for the night. It’s like the ‘always on’ athletic department! There’s always someone there if you need us.
It’s pretty quiet in the morning. I always start with my voicemail then move on to email. The first thing I’m looking for is things that might have come in hot from the night before. Then I can prioritize. I don’t answer everything right on the spot, but I always get to it ASAP.
I graduated K-12 at Concord. I’m a Concord kid through and through and I took a path a little different than most. I never played athletics in high school or even coached a sport. When I started out as a teacher at the middle school, I had been there a few years and the position came open. While I’ve never played, I love sports. And when I applied, I was the only one! Sometimes I wonder if I was the only person crazy enough to say yes. The more I did the job at middle school, the more I fell in love with it.
When things started off, I was working half-time between teaching and being the athletic director, and there were struggles. Desk time was hard. I’d be teaching, and I’d get a call from an official at 10am about that nights game at 7pm, and then I’m looking for a replacement. New lesson plan kids, sit quietly and read the book, because I’ll be on the phone finding an official for tonight! That’s why I decided to stop teaching and focus on being the AD. I just wasn’t doing justice to either job.
I made the jump to the high school after 7 years at the middle school. When the position first opened, I had to apply because it was a win-win. Get the job? Get a job I love. Don’t get the job? Have a job I love.
You never know what you’re going to get as an AD. That’s why it’s so enjoyable. We’ve got 80 coaches and about 500 athletes to keep track of. You’re a community conduit. In the morning I’m on the phone with the local McDonald’s, then parents, facilities, transportation. In the afternoon, all bets are off. It’s hard to develop a routine but it keeps me on my toes. I like that. Even in my downtime I’m always on the go.
We have tremendous community support here. Concord is an old township school, and that’s what makes us unique. Our district takes in kids from between Elkhart and Goshen [Indiana] and so we don’t necessarily have a formal town identity like some others do. The school is the center of community life in our district. They always come out to the games, they always support the kids. We’re the glue. We try our best be good community leaders in as much as we can.
We sit down once a month go through the sports and school calendars as administrative team. That’s me and all the principals. Then, I also do once a month with all the head coaches which is my regular face-to-face time. We’ll hit the big stuff. New things from the ISHAA conference, new rules, policies, procedures. We always do that first Wednesday of month, before school.
It’s getting harder and harder to find a time to meet with my coaches. Before, almost all of them used to work in the building. Some coaches work outside now – and they’ve got their own jobs and lives that we need to work around. We’ve got a handful of factory workers on different shifts. Some need to be in at 6am. How do you find a time to interact with that person? If someone misses the meeting, it depends on the topics how I handle it. Sometimes an email works. Other times, I’ll meet them at their practice. If I can’t find something after that, then I’ll get the assistant coach involved. It’s so important to keep everyone on the same page.
As an AD, it’s always been my goal to stress the importance of kids trying out multiple activities and multiple sports. We’re a learning institution for young people. My favorite example of this is what we did with the marching band recently. You ever go to a game and notice that there’s always one or two on the field playing their instrument in a football or cheerleading uniform because they’re juggling both groups? Well, we realized that of all the others, a lot are athletes in other sports too. We wanted to show the community that we value that kind of participation. So one game we had each band member wear their athletic uniform, whether that was from the Fall, Winter or Spring season. It was pretty great.
Where do you want to be in 10 years is such an interesting question when you work at schools. Every year, more than 25% of your entire population is brand new. So it’s hard to think that far in advance. I like to break it up into smaller chunks, and concentrate on creating the best experience for our families while they’re here. Everyone is new at some point, and so we have to be good dealing with and connecting families of kids who have never been involved before. Be the best we can be. It’s kind of a balancing act. Are we as good as we think? How can we better ease the transition between middle school and high school? It’s got to be smooth and easy. I’ve noticed that the general turnover rate for head coaches is growing every year, too. We had three brand new this year out of twenty. We’re always going to have these folks who don’t know – how can we help them know where to look for things? Is the schedule online or on paper? What forms do they need? How can they have a voice in our department? That’s what I focus on.
I think the thing to always keep in mind is that the job is never going to be done. You’ll never going to say I’m 100% caught up and done until the next thing comes in. And I’ve always felt that its valuable to make sure people know that they shouldn’t forget to make time for yourself. This job is one where you need to be on all the time, and sometimes there’s 80 hour weeks. But you need to create time for yourself to keep fresh. It’s hard to do. You’ve got to look ahead, figure out how to communicate effectively, rely on others. Make sure you can do that. Everyone enjoys different things – kids, hunting, travel, other things. If you wait for that – you’ll never get it. If you don’t make time for the things important in your life, you’ll burn out quick. Always be sure to make time for a trip to San Diego once in a while.