Edinburgh athletics director David Walden learned early in his administrative tenure that sometimes you have to say no — even to people you’ve known for decades.
Walden grew up in Edinburgh, graduated from the high school in 1979 and returned to his alma mater in 2013 to preside over the school’s 14 sports programs.
One of the challenges he occasionally encounters is unrealistic expectations from those in the community simply because he is a former Lancer student-athlete.
“It’s hard to say no, especially to people who are close to me,” Walden said. “I have the best interest of an athlete in mind, and sometimes parents don’t understand that. Sometimes they want me to cut corners. A parent here or there.
“But I think all (ADs) have the same problems, whether it’s a big school or a small school.”
Walden is one of the four former Johnson County athletes serving as AD at his former high school. Others are Ken Sears (Whiteland), Derek Perry (Indian Creek) and Bill Doty (Franklin). Also true to his school is David Lauck (Roncalli).
Now in his sixth school year, Sears has held his title longest. Perry and Doty are in their first year as athletics directors.
“It’s inevitable that at some point you’re going to deal with a parent you have a close relationship with, or even a coach,” said Perry, a 1997 Indian Creek graduate who was the Braves boys basketball coach for seven seasons (2010-17). “It makes it difficult when you know everyone on a personal level.
“You’ve got to separate it and be professional about it. It can be hard depending on the circumstance. But it’s something I understood when taking the job. It’s not all peaches and cream all of the time.”
Sears used his 12 years as a teacher at Whiteland High School teacher and nine as the Warriors’ head football coach (1996-04) to familiarize himself with issues associated with being a hometown athletics director.
A 1978 Whiteland graduate, Sears occasionally experiences negatives associated with being in a position of authority at his alma mater.
“I do know that when I was coaching with friends, which is kind of a byproduct of living here, is when their son wasn’t named captain, we weren’t friends anymore,” Sears said. “You have to watch out for that kind of thing.
“As far as people saying you’ve been here all your life, so give me this? No, not a lot. It’s more the parent issues that they don’t understand. They think things are like they were in the 1970s. Well, they aren’t like they were in the ’70s. Parents are different. Kids are different. Our athletic program is different.”
Lauck, a 1994 graduate, was Roncalli’s assistant athletics director for four years before taking over for the retired Dave Toner at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. Some of the coaches who were leading Rebel programs when he was a student there remain, which creates an interesting dynamic.
For instance, after playing football for Bruce Scifres from 1991-93, Lauck wasn’t about to ask Scifres to refer to him as Mr. Lauck. Nor was Lauck about to offer up coaching advice to a man responsible for leading the Rebels to seven of the program’s nine state championships.
In terms of dealing with parents he’s known most of his life, Lauck refers to procedures that have been in place long before he became an administrator.
“There’s a reason for having the school handbook and school/athletic mission statements. In that regard, it doesn’t matter to me if I’ve known a family for 30 years or 30 days,” Lauck said. “Rules are rules, and all student-athletes will be expected to follow them, and parents need to understand them.”
Walden worked 30 years at Greenwood as a business teacher. He coached football, basketball and track & field for the Woodmen before returning to Edinburgh for the 2013-14 school year.
“I just felt like I’m at a point in my life where I needed to give back to the community,” said Walden, who played football, basketball, track and baritone saxophone in the marching band during his time as an Edinburgh student. “There are good people here.”
Spending days and evenings working the phones to line up officials, making sure soccer fields are ready for play and monitoring home sporting events weren’t what Sears initially envisioned doing in his late 50s.
Sears worked various jobs after graduating from college, including retail management, dock supervisor and manager at Deluxe Check Printers. He eventually returned to Whiteland as a teacher before spending five as the dean of students at Whiteland Intermediate School.
Much has changed about the school since Sears attended.
The graduating class when Sears was a senior had 196 students, and more than 400 graduated from Whiteland last spring. Projections have the high school’s enrollment in the area of 2,200 students by the start of the 2022-23 school year.
“There are a lot of positives. You have history with the school and you’re invested in the community,” Sears said. “If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would ever be an AD, I would have said no way.”
“Whiteland is continuing to change and grow, but the roots are still the same. People care about sports, but they keep it in perspective. It’s not win at all costs.”
Doty took a scenic route back to Franklin.
After graduating from college, he spent one year in Colorado before realizing how much he missed his family and hometown. He worked for his father at Don Doty Construction for a few years before becoming employed as maintenance foreman at Franklin Community Schools in 1999.
Doty began working closer with school administrators as the director of operations from 2011-17. These experiences benefited Doty, who was hired in May to become athletic director.
“I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else,” Doty said. “I absolutely love it. It’s a privilege to be in this position and serve the community. I can’t imagine being the AD anywhere else.”
Five of the eight local high school athletic directors are working at the same schools they attended and played sports at:
Ken Sears;Whiteland;1978;9 (football, basketball, baseball)
David Walden;Edinburgh;1979;8 (football, basketball, track)
Bill Doty;Franklin;1990;6 (basketball, golf)
David Lauck;Roncalli;1994;5 (football, baseball)
Derek Perry;Indian Creek;1997;6 (basketball, golf)