In November, we welcomed 26-year old Athletic Director Jackson Haak to our network. Jackson is in his second year as an AD for the Wahluke School District in central Washington, where he manages 7th-12th grade sports. We sat down with him to talk about becoming an AD at a young age, his day-to-day life and how VNN has helped his athletic department and community so far.
What led you to becoming an AD?
I think my love for sports at a young age fueled my passion for staying involved with athletics. I played varsity sports 9th-12th grade and won two state titles in basketball. After high school, I went to Eastern Washington for college, then got my Masters at Texas A&M in Sports Management in 2018. I’m so grateful to be in my second year as an AD now, even though things look a little different this year with COVID.
What is it like building relationships with both students and coaches as a young AD?
Since I just turned 26 years old and I’m just a few years removed from graduate school, I feel like I’m in a perfect spot to relate both with my student-athletes and my fellow athletic directors. Being my age, it is easier for me to develop faster relationships with my student-athletes than it is with some of my coaches because of the age factor. I feel like the student-athletes are a lot more willing to listen and learn from me since they are younger, but it is a little more difficult being a boss to a coach who is significantly older than you. It takes time to learn how to navigate that slippery slope of coach and boss relationship but it has been a great overall experience getting to know all of my coaches.
Having found success as an AD so early in your career, what advice do you have for people still trying to get into the field?
I would say coming into college as a freshman, I already had the idea of wanting to work within athletics for a job in the future. Coming into college with that mindset kind of helped me both visualize and look for internship opportunities that would enhance my ability to properly manage a sports program. Hence why I was heavily involved with youth sports to help me prepare for the current position I am in.
What is your day-to-day like?
It’s a lot different than last year. The state of Washington is not participating in school sports right now, so I’m wearing multiple hats as the AD, facilities coordinator and COVID specialist. I dealt a lot with sanitation and equipment this fall. It’s a lot of emails and Zoom meetings this year, as well as a lot more prep and end work with COVID, but I’ve learned and grown a lot.
Any great stories to share?
During the first sports season I had here in the fall of 2019, our girls soccer program made it to state for the first time in school history. It was super cool to see a second-year coach help them make it to state and the girls crying with joy. With the short year we had, it was so fun watching our girls compete at state.
Why did you decide to start using VNN?
Our athletic department wasn’t happy with the previous product that we were using. Different schools were using VNN and they told us it would help our AD, students, coaches and community. So, we set up a training then we did a 1:1 with all the ADs in our league. Overall, I think it is going to be a great program. It really encompasses everything that an athletic department needs, as well as the coaches, athletes and community members.
How has the community responded?
I shared the athletics website with my old AD first and he was shook with all the new features. I made a little highlight reel of his son, who is a good basketball player, using BoxOut Sports and he got excited knowing we could use this to showcase our athletes more. I think it’s going to help communication in our community big time. I also have coaches that are very creative and I know they’ll make their site pages awesome.
If you had one piece of advice for other ADs, what would it be?
Take everything with a grain of salt. There’s a lot of times where an AD can get down on themselves. You’re putting out a lot of fires each day, but if you walk into your day asking what you can do to better yourself and make your athletic programs great, you’re doing a great job.
Thank you, Jackson, for taking the time to share some insight with us. Look for more of these How I Work features each month.