Today’s interviewee is Athens Academy athletic director Kevin Petroski, who is in his 16th year at the Class A private school and 13th in his current job. A graduate of Deerfield-Windsor in Albany, Petroski worked with Georgia Independent School Association members before coming to Athens.
Athens Academy AD
1. What are the added challenges as an athletic director during the pandemic? “Student safety is always the No. 1 priority for us in any year, but we’re definitely having to focus more this year on their well-being when they arrive on campus and now that they’re in school. So we’ve had to make sure we’ve educated the coaches on guidelines and provided all the cleaning products. We’ve had to show them not just what they are but how to use them, how much they need to be used and how long they’ll be effective. I’ve had to learn it as much as the coaches. ...
“I also spent an entire week preparing protocols for spectators and visitors at athletic events, then had to finalize all that with our head of school and director of operations. That’s been something that athletic directors have been working on that was never the case in the past.” [For football games, Athens Academy is allowing parents and siblings of players, cheerleaders and coaches, plus 33 seniors. “I know 33 sounds like a random number,” Petroski said, “but that’s what it measures out to be with social-distancing.”]
2. How are the challenges different for a private school compared to a larger school, or a school that’s part of a larger school system? And is it easier to have everyone on board with a decision? “It’s much easier at a smaller school, whether it’s public or private. I know a lot of my colleagues at county schools who are definitely more challenged than I am in some regards. We have one football stadium, one facility on campus, one locker room. As far as people agreeing on what to do, I’m not sure that’s completely true, but smaller schools seem to come to consensus or decisions a little faster. We’re lucky that we have very supportive families, and they want what’s best. I see families wanting their kids to get in what they missed out on in the spring. The majority of people want to see fall sports move forward and hopefully winter and spring as well.”
3. What questions are people most asking you? “They just want to know if we’re going to be playing. It doesn’t matter what sport. Football gets the most attention now because other sports are already playing. I’m getting questions from student-athletes that I never really got before. They’re asking about the GHSA and when does the sports medicine committee meet or when will the board of trustees make a decision. It’s good that they’re interested, but it also lets me know that they’re struggling with it and it’s a stressor for them. That’s nothing you want them to have. You want them to play and not have to worry about that.”
4. How do you see the football season playing out? “I’ve said from day one that the schedule that we have in place now, you can’t write them in stone any more. There’s no guarantee you’re going to play every game on the schedule. We had Charlotte Country Day scheduled for Sept. 11, and North Carolina moved their season to later. We’re now having to find a replacement. We might find out any week that our opponent can’t play and have to find a game. That’s going to be something that’s common around the state. But I don’t think it’s going to keep people from wanting to move forward and play. I guess maybe I’m being an optimist, but I believe we’re going to have a football season.”
With one of the first school-based volleyball programs in the area, Athens Academy enjoys a strong and successful history. In preparation for deep runs in the playoffs, including many trips to the final four, we traditionally schedule a rigorous level of non-Area opponents.
So that our athletes receive quality instruction with a realistic opportunity for playing time, the size of teams in some sports is limited. Students "try out" for teams. Although there is no guarantee that a student will be selected for a specific team, the number and variety of offerings provide many opportunities for each player.