BROOKFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — From angry parents to struggling students, school athletic directors have to deal with an increasing number of issues in school sports.
Athletic directors said they get blamed when things go wrong and little praise when they go right.
“The amount of pressure on an athletic director may be the greatest in any district besides that of the superintendent,” said Connecticut Association of Schools Executive Director Glenn Lungarini.
The pandemic caused the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors (CAAD) to start getting together once a year for Professional Development Day.
Most districts just have one athletic director, so this is the chance to exchange ideas. Officials said one of the big concerns these days is mental health.
“Not only of our student-athletes but also our coaches and administrators that are here as well,” said Trish Witkin, the director of athletics at Glastonbury High School.
The pandemic was tough on everyone’s mental health. Student-athletes often take their concerns to a coach before anyone else.
“Athletes have a little bit more of an edge, they have an advantage to have that resource, that closeness with a coach, and we’re just trying to get coaches trained to deal with those issues,” said Fred Balsamo, executive director of the CAAD.
Coaches and athletic directors said new problems have been arising with this generation of student-athletes. They are finding bad sportsmanship happens not just at school or on the field, but on social media as well.
“It can be, obviously, a very positive thing, social media, being able to get some great stories about our student-athletes out in the community, but also we have to make sure we teach our student-athletes the appropriate way to use social media,” said V.J. Sarullo, the president of the CAAD.
Whether online, or at the game, bad sportsmanship can get in the way of what youth sports are all about.
“To develop meaningful relationships, develop lifelong skills, and give them that opportunity to have that experience without the screaming and yelling,” Lungarini said. “And screaming and yelling is the root of another major problem for athletic directors, which is getting officials to work their games.