Coach Interview: High School Athletic Director Jason Ward

Coach Interview: High School Athletic Director Jason Ward Coach Interview: High School Athletic Director Jason Ward

Jason Ward is a high school athletic director at Streamwood High School in Streamwood, Illinois. He has been an athletic director for eight years and was an educator before that. Jason Ward was also a Division III athlete himself, so he has extensive experience in the college recruiting world.

1. What is your recruiting strategy?

Now, you see more parents involved in the recruiting process. When I was going through the process in the 90s, you relied on your coach a lot, but now parents have to be more involved. 

A big change today in the recruiting process is social media. You can see what the majority of athletes’ processes look like because athletes are posting where they are being recruited and who they are being recruited by. Of course, there is going to be competition because schools can only give out so many scholarships. Now, athletes are comparing themselves and rushing the process. 

2. What is your advice to parents who are going through the recruiting process for the first time?

The priority has to be the grades. Everybody can be recruited but you are better off getting an academic scholarship than athletic aid. There is only so much aid you can get from athletic aid. First and foremost, as a parent, I want to make sure that my child is getting it done in the classroom. Once that happens, everything else can fall into place. 

You might not be a big Division I star, but you can still go and play at a DII or DIII school if you have the grades. 

Today, there are so many different recruiting tools out there and sometimes you don’t know who to trust. Having a relationship with your child’s coach is super important. Coaches know the process so be honest with them about what it is that your child is looking for. Athletes should know their athletic ability compared to other athletes. 

3. How can athletes find their best fit?

Go on as many visits as you can. Look at big schools, small schools, junior colleges, and stay overnight on campus. Look at the location; the culture is different everywhere you go. Start early in your process. If you aren’t a five-star recruit, get out there early and walk around campuses. 

Choose a school where you know you will excel academically. Injuries can happen at any moment. You want to make sure you find somewhere that you really enjoy. 

4. What do athletes struggle with the most in the recruiting process?

I think it is the trust. Today, everybody knows who is being recruited by who. You have different coaches and recruiting analysts telling you things and you don’t know what to believe. To counter that, you just have to believe in your abilities. You have to know where you stand and keep a close team that will help you through your process. Everyone is going to tell you something different. 

The transfer portal has also impacted recruiting. Before, teams would have 12 or 15 high school recruits. Now, teams might only have 4-6 high school recruits because programs can get an athlete who has already played in college and knows how to navigate everything. 

5. What has been your proudest accomplishment as an athletic director?

I’ve always been a person about relationships. Current and former colleagues I’ve had would tell you that I’m a personable person, I love forming relationships, and I love competition. Win or lose, I get excited just to see our kids compete. Sometimes I have previous students who message me just to talk and I really value that. That means that you have made a difference in their life somehow because they continue to keep in contact with you. That’s what I appreciate the most. The awards are great to see, but when you have relationships with kids who are now adults and they come back to see you, that’s what I enjoy most about my job. 

6. What is some advice you have for other athletics directors?

Organization is the biggest piece when it comes to coaching and being an athletic director. Have a system in place because you don’t know what is going to happen in a day. Being organized is key.

When you come in, just try to learn. Learn the school, learn the people, the coaches, the students, the administration, and maintenance. They need to see your face and know who you are. That is going to help with the relationship. Get parents involved and ensure them that they can trust that you are going to do what’s best for their child. Don’t shy away from talking to parents at the games. They are going to be your biggest support system. 

It’s a lot of work, but if you can build relationships early on, it will help everything in the long run. Don’t worry about making changes right away. Let things be and learn the process. At the end of the year, you can assess everything. 

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