And as the 2017-18 school year unfolds, the athletic director position will basically be tag-teamed by Mike Wilson and Eddie Pless.
Wilson went into retirement July 1, and Pless took over as the full-time athletic director. Once Jan. 1 rolls around, Pless will go into retirement. Both men will eventually work under 120-day (Pless) and 100-day (Wilson) contracts.
So basically from Sept. 1 until the end of the school year, Wilson and Pless will have a shared role as AD.
“I think it will be good in a lot of ways,” said Wilson. “We can cover stuff better.
“Yes, there are things I’m a little unsure about and a little apprehensive about. There are a lot of things we do during the school day that aren’t part of ballgames. You have eligibility issues, meetings, and TSSAA meetings. You have to figure all of that stuff in. We will learn as we go. There are always going to be unanticipated things.”
Pless said he’s excited and looking forward to the new setup.
“The good thing for me is I have someone to work with who has done it for 10 years,” said Pless. “I think it will be a good thing. We know each other, and we think a lot alike about athletics.
“We will have to feel our way through this first year. We will have to find our own niches as the year goes on. And we’re keeping Angie Peters in her role as athletic secretary. It’s a unique situation.”
Wilson said his decision to step away from the full-time position was just a timing thing.
“I’ve done it for 10 years and been an educator for 37 years,” said Wilson. “It’s a great thing, and I’ve enjoyed it. But the number of hours you put in; I’m 60 years old, and I can’t do this forever.
“With the way this works out, Eddie and I can do it. We just have to plan and schedule. The key will be scheduling properly.”
Wilson said he still enjoys being an athletic director.
“I’m just kind of a people person,” he said. “The best part of the AD job is how many people you get to deal with and talk with. I’ve made a lot of friends and gotten to know a lot of people better than I did before.”
It was a similar reason why Wilson enjoyed his coaching career so much.
“The best thing about coaching wasn’t winning or losing or competing,” said Wilson. “The two best things were: teaching at its purest form — I enjoy teaching — and also the people. I think about all of the kids I coached and the relationships I built with people. Even before I coached at Elizabethton, the kids I coached at South get in touch with me even today.”
Wilson said some things will be different this year for Cyclones’ athletic programs as they will be competing against bigger schools in sports like track, cross country and golf.
“It’s staggering to me that someone would think that’s the way to do it,” said Wilson. “I don’t want to blast the TSSAA, but we’re a school of 840 and we’re competing against people with 2,200 kids. We have six divisions in football, but only two in track? I don’t want six divisions in track, but it tells you what they really care about: money.”
Wilson said he did see one positive thing about Elizabethton kids competing against bigger schools.
“I used to coach track, and we went against the big schools and still had state champions,” said Wilson. “I think when you go up against the big dogs, your kids’ idea of what a good throw is or what a good leap is or what a good time is becomes different from what it is when you’re not competing against the big dogs. If the kids have the ability that hasn’t been tapped, they may actually have better performances than if they never competed against the big dogs.”
Wilson said one thing that has changed over his 37 years in education and athletics is parents’ views of their kids’ futures.
“Back in 1979, not everybody who had a kid involved in high school sports thought their kid was going to play in college,” said Wilson. “A lot of people are too obsessed with having their kids play in college. At the end of the day, will that bring you happiness?
“The goal should be for them to have a great time playing high school sports, learn about hard work and success and failure and teamwork. I don’t talk to my son about playing in college. I don’t want that to be the yardstick. I tell him to work hard, do your best, and enjoy playing high school ball.”