VACAVILLE — To help him in his position as athletic director at Will C. Wood High, a friend gave Mark Wudel a list detailing everything the job entails.
Some friend. The list fills 14 pages.
“It’s a real amazing list, I was surprised,” Wudel said. “Do I do all that? I don’t think it’s worth the pay (a $3,537 stipend per school year) for a lot of things you have to go through. It doesn’t include all the parent calls – ‘When’s somebody’s game?’ ‘How come my kid isn’t playing?’ ‘How come they were cut?’ You’ve got to answer questions from parents.”
As with any athletic director, the 56-year-old Wudel’s days are filled, even before the school year begins. Even before athletes and teams can hit the floor, field, track, court or pool, there’s a lot of work to do.
It starts with making sure athletes are eligible – physically and academically – to compete.
“You are in charge of checking physicals, and that’s gone on toward where a kid has to get a doctor’s physical, (proof of) insurance, has signed a concussion form and has signed the rules of the athletic teams,” Wudel said. “So you have to check off all those things for them to be cleared to participate in practice or conditioning so the district isn’t liable, that they’re physically fit.”
Then come the grades. Each athlete needs to have a grade point average of at least 2.0 to be eligible.
“That’s the simple stuff,” Wudel said, but it’s not a one-time thing involving just a few individuals. That checking of approximately 600 students starts before the school year begins to make sure athletes were eligible at the end of the previous year. Then there are quarter and semester grade checks throughout the year, a task complicated by seasons extending over more than one grading period.
Transfers add several more levels of paperwork – and headaches.
Making sure there are qualified coaches to lead the teams is another time-consuming task, even if a coach is returning. Wudel’s list of “things to cover each year” with coaches has 22 items.
With athletes and coaches in place, there’s the matter of the games, matches and meets. Wudel is in charge of making sure Wood’s athletic teams have proper equipment and uniforms, that officials have been lined up for home games and that transportation is arranged for road contests.
There’s also the little thing of “paying for all the stuff,” Wudel said. “Are you making enough money from ticket sales and snack bars so you can pay for officials? They don’t let you go in the hole so you have to watch your budget.”
Wudel said Wood gets about $30,000 from the Vacaville School District each year for athletics, but the annual cost for fielding teams in 17 sports is approximately $80,000.
“We have to make up for it on concessions, gate, donations and fundraising,” he said.
Wudel said he makes a to-do list each night for what he has to get done the next day. Some days the list works, others he has to throw it away.
“Sometimes you don’t go home. You stay at work until you get stuff done,” he said. “That’s when you have long nights. . . . It’s not like a 9-to-5 job. You have to get things done because it has to be there for tomorrow or you can’t get your athletics going.”
Wudel’s own high school days at Tokay High School in Lodi – as part of the school’s first freshmen class – were less complicated. He fondly remembered scoring the first soccer goal in school history and also participated in basketball and track before graduating in 1976.
He began his coaching career as a boys basketball assistant at Cordova High in Rancho Cordova in 1984, and became the head coach at Vacaville in 1989.
Wudel moved over to Wood in 2004 and became athletic director two years later.
Wudel earned his master’s degree from United States Sports Academy, based in Daphne, Ala., to help prepare him for the job.
Wudel pointed out that the average athletic director in California lasts just five years in the position because of the difficulties involved.
How long does he plan to stick it out?
“Right now, I love doing it,” Wudel said. “There’s headaches like with any job. . . . It’s not going to be any easier. As long as I’m enjoying it, I’m going to keep doing it.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.