With camp winding down and the first Oliver Ames games this week, Patch sat down with Bill Matthews,
You’re an Easton resident. How long have you lived here?
Since 1989. So, 23 years.
When you saw the job open up for Oliver Ames Athletic Director, why did you decide it was something you wanted to pursue?
It was time for a change. I needed to make a change in my career and I never really considered that this position would be open. A friend of mine had mentioned that it was posted and I contacted [OA Principal] Wes [Paul]. He gave me some background on what they were looking for. I was concerned they might be looking for someone with specific sports administration experience. He said that although that was something that was on the list of criteria, it wasn’t mandatory.
As I got to thinking about it, I felt like this was an opportunity to make a change and use my skills I had developed in business and apply them in this role of responsibility and have an opportunity to have more of an impact on peoples’ lives. I really love to be able to work with the coaches and athletes and really kind of give back more.
You have a background in both sports and business. How do you plan on fusing both?
I think that’s already happened. It has been a tremendous benefit to have the technology background. Having used a lot of programs and tools and to be comfortable on the computer with organizational products, using email and keeping organized electronically has been a tremendous help so far.
We’ve launched an online registration program that is fully integrated from doing registration, to communication, all the way through invoicing and payment, which is really unusual. Some schools are moving to online registration but they’re not really capturing the payments. It’s kind of like they’re doing some key pieces of it. I just kind of put my head down and went after it and worked with the business office and we got this whole thing put together. Without the experience of being in the private sector in business I don’t think I’d be able to put that together.
Also, in the business I was in, communication was really important and that’s a really critical part of this job.
You’ve been at it for a couple of months. What has surprised you so far?
I really appreciate all the help and support from everybody. I really appreciate Wes [Paul] bringing me in early so I had a couple of months to become familiar with how things work rather than bringing me in on August 15 and saying ‘get ready, you’ve got 500 kids coming into camp you need to register.’ It gave me a opportunity to get comfortable with a lot of aspects of the job so I was more prepared.
It was challenging but I think there were a lot of things I learned during that process. I think I was in a really good position where we know who’s out there in the field, we’ve got all the paperwork, we’ve got all the physicals and the sign-offs and all that stuff.
I guess the registration was a little more intense than I expected it to be; a little more overwhelming at times, but with what I learned I think it was made more manageable moving forward.
What are you doing to make things easier for parents and athletes?
I always have this need to try to make it better – so I’m going to try to improve upon that process to make it so parents and kids can be better prepared and better educated about what they need to do when it’s Day One and they show up here so they’re not in a mad scramble calling their doctors for a physical and trying to schedule a physical with all the other crazy stuff that happens.
Dr. Dern – Mike Dern – he’s been a phenomenal supporter of Oliver Ames sports through the years. He actually comes in and gives physicals. He comes in two nights and does physicals for 2 hours each of those nights so kids that don’t have a physical can come in, get it done and go out and play.
What initiatives do you hope to accomplish in your first year?
The online registration is a big thing. I didn’t think I’d get it done that quickly, but we just decided we were going to go for it for the fall programs and we were able to get it up and running.
I’m really working on all of the organizational systems about tracking athletes and tracking coaches. There are a number of requirements that are placed upon coaches, like MIAA regulations and rules and there’s just a lot to do, so I’m really putting together an organizational system to keep track of that.
We have tremendous boosters clubs that support the different sports. I want to create collaboration between some of those boosters clubs to have a capital improvements group. I want to identify a number of capital improvements we need to make that really affect multiple sports.
[We can] get some of these folks working together towards more of a master plan in capital improvements. For example: the lights on our stadium – they didn’t replace them when they put in the new field and some of those lights are 30 years old – and there’s a number of other things. We need an overall plan dealing with capital improvements.
Predictions for number of championships this year?
One thing I really want to stress is we’re really fortunate that we have great youth sports that develop athletes; kids and parents that love sports and love to play. But, at the end of the day, to me sports is about going out there and competing at the highest level you can.
Sometimes that may not mean a championship. But, if you have a team that works together and achieves at the highest level that it can and you provide an environment where the kids are learning how to play sports – learning self discipline and teamwork; some of those core values that are really important – those are things that are really important to me. Certainly winning makes it a lot more fun for everyone and we certainly want to do our share of that but I feel like if we do all of the other things; if we get good coaches and we get coaches who put the kids in the right positions, we’ll compete well.