Long County High School’s Karen Swindell has been named the Region 2-AA athletic director of the year.
Swindell, the only female athletic director in 2-AA from a school that includes both boys’ and girls’ sports, was chosen by her peers Jan. 10 at their monthly meeting. She now will be considered for the statewide honor.
Swindell was surprised at being chosen, but honored that her peers thought highly of her.
“I was shocked. I had no idea, but I can honestly say that the only reason I was selected was because of the outstanding job that everyone in our athletic program does,” she said. “I’m proud of all of them, and this is only a reflection of them.”
Swindell, who assumed the athletic director position in 2008, has taught all but one of her 18 professional years in the Long County system.
She said that when she took the helm of the athletic department, the school had a stellar history in baseball and basketball, but the football program was in its early growth. Some of her goals included maintaining the winning tradition at baseball and basketball and getting the football program to the next level.
This past season, the football team had its best year in school history, finishing with a 5-5 record.
Swindell also said she wanted to see a soccer program started, and on Feb. 11, the high school will host its first boys’ and girls’ soccer games when they play Bryan County as part of their full schedule.
But even though sports are important to Swindell, she said that they always will take a back seat to academics and teaching students to be good citizens. Previously, it was a requirement of students to have passing grades at the end of each semester to participate in sports, but for Swindell it was more critical to maintain passing grades throughout the entire semester.
For this reason, she made it mandatory that teachers sign a form stating that student athletes are passing their classes the same day that they are to leave school early to travel to a game — no passing grade, no early-out to play ball.
Swindell said the policy hasn’t always been popular with some parents or even some coaches, but it is a policy that she sticks to.
“I think that it is important that we put the student back into student-athlete,” she said. “I don’t want them to just excel on the field. I want them to excel in the classroom, too.”
Swindell would like see the day Long County offers every Georgia high-school sport, including wrestling, tennis and volleyball. However, she acknowledged that with potentially tough financial times ahead, that day may be a few years away.
Though Swindell was shocked by the region honor, one person who wasn’t surprised was Superintendent Dr. Robert Waters.
“By Karen being selected in what is typically a male-dominated position, it only goes farther to show how her peers respect what she is doing,” he said. “They see it and others see it when they come over to our county.
“When teams and their parents and coaches come over here, they are always treated well, and our sports events are always well organized. That makes an impact. I get comments all of the time from people who I know from other counties on what a good job she is doing and how our program has such a good reputation.”