Ask the AD - Stephen Speck, Francis Scott Key High School

This summer, CSZ will be doing a segment on the WICKipedia entitled "Ask the AD". In this feature, we'll be conducting Q&A's with various athletic directors around Maryland to learn more about how different high schools run their athletic programs, and what to expect from them in the future.

Today we're featuring Stephen Speck from Francis Scott Key High School in Carroll County! Stephen spoke with us about a variety of topics including what the athletics culture is like at FSK!

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County Sports Zone:How did you become the athletic director at FSK? How did your appointment come about?

Stephen Speck:I came to FSK three years ago. After having been at Winters Mill for the previous seven years, my counterpart and I literally traded placements. As much as I've enjoyed every assignment over the course of my career in education (teaching, coaching and athletic administration), in many regards, my time at Key has been my favorite.

CSZ:How has the job changed since you became an athletic director?

SS:In many ways, it has. The position is evolving. There are several moving parts. We've transcended from athletic directors and have expanded to the role of athletic administrators. Bottom lining it, while the labor-intensive aspects of the job certainly still exist, our responsibilities have broadened. In many regards, we now operate as the assistant principals of athletic and facility coordination.

CSZ:What do you enjoy most about your job?

SS:I'm a culture guy. I love the opportunity, the privilege if you will, of serving as a change agent in a school community. There's no denying the fact that the athletics program at any given high school is a significant cultural pillar. The minute we recognize that is the minute that it's also our responsibility to embrace that reality, and use interscholastic sports as a means through which a positive impact can be made within the school. I'm honored merely to be a part of that.

I'm surrounded by amazing people at this place. It's the stakeholder population at FSK that makes this experience unlike any other that I've ever encountered professionally. Perhaps most of all though, there's no greater joy, in my humble opinion, that you'll find than watching kids participate and compete in the sports they love, on behalf of their school. I'm truly blessed to be here.

CSZ:What're a couple keys to running a successful athletic program?

SS:I honestly believe it begins with building a thriving culture. Place the right people (coaches) in front of kids (student-athletes), leaders who can get their players to rally around them win, lose, or draw, and from that will be birthed a successful athletic program.

You can't buy tradition either. While I know that there are cases in which young schools amass great accomplishments and I wouldn't dare discredit that in the least, you simply can't put a price on longstanding school pride. Here at FSK, our staff, coaches, student-athletes, etc. may very well come from multiple generations of former Eagles. The people of Key bleed red, white and blue, in many respects, regardless of outcome.

The key to running a successful athletic program lies in establishing school sports as a piece of the foundation on which the school is built.

CSZ:What is the sports culture like at FSK?

SS:In a word, it's resilient. Even during years of the cliche rebuilding, our Eagle Family is committed. It runs deep. Our goal is always to keep that level of dedication alive and well. Victories and defeats may come and go, but our loyalty remains strong.

CSZ:How would you rate this past year for FSK Athletics? Were there any highlights?

SS:I'd definitely call it a year on the rise. As the seasons progressed, we seemingly grew more and more. In the fall and winter, our cheerleading squads advanced to the state finals for the first time in school history, and placed in both. During the winter, we had our first wrestling state place-winner in years. To round out the school year, our baseball program had an outstanding spring and earned what's customarily been recognized as a regular season County Championship. Many other reasons to celebrate along the way though, and plenty of bright sports on the horizon.

CSZ:When considering a potential candidate for a coaching position, what do you look for?

SS:It's arguably the most significant decision I make on any given day. The individuals I place in front of our student-athletes not only teach them the fundamentals of their respective sports, but they also possess a definitive hand in shaping their lives.

In a coach, I look for a solidly founded knowledge base, a talent for instruction, and high character. If we expect our players to behave admirably both on and off the field, then it's my duty to ensure that the coaches that I place before them provide a worthy role model. It's also a non-negotiable for me that our coaches always keep the best interest of our kids in the forefront of their thoughts. Beyond that, I expect our coaches to serve as ambassadors of both our school and FSK Eagle Athletics, representative of all for which we stand and in which we take pride here at Key.

CSZ:MPSSAA sports started up last week. What does the start of a new season bring for an AD?

SS:It's all about preparation. It's my job to serve our coaches so that they are able to best serve our student-athletes. I'm also the beneficiary of an exceptional support base. Both our clerical and custodial staffs have been extremely instrumental in assisting me with the opening of the fall. Our boosters organization is phenomenal and I rely upon them extensively in a variety of areas. My Athletics Assistant and I've worked diligently to finalize scheduling, transportation, equipment orders, paperwork management, field lining, etc., in order to ensure as seamless a start as possible for our coaches and their kids.

CSZ:Is there anything new or exciting on the horizon for FSK Athletics?

SS:Nothing specifically necessarily, but I like what the future holds in store for us. Again, this is a great place so good things are bound to come from that.

A few years ago, we founded the Athletic Leadership Council (ALC). It's a group comprised of both team captains and coach-appointed at-large student-athlete leaders. Last year, they created the motto "Play for you. Play for me. Play for Key." These are the words that have come to set the tone for who we are and how we compete here at Key.
August 17th, 2016By: Wick Eisenberg

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