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Episode 27 · 5 months ago

Nick Hazeltine: Navigating Back to Sports During Covid

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

We’re talking with Nick Hazeltine from Walla Walla Catholic Schools. He recounts how Covid has impacted their program in Washington State, the lessons they’ve learned and how they’re moving forward.  

Subscribe now to the CNAA Podcast, so you don’t miss an episode.And, feel free to write in to the CNAA by emailing info@thecnaa.org  

Welcome to the Catholic NationalAthletic Associations podcast over time, we talked about the unique challengesof running an Athletic Department at Catholic high schools. We also featureathletic directors from around the country and identify Best Practices forsuccessful high school athletic departments. If you would like tosubmit a question or suggest a topic idea for the podcast, please email infoat the Cena a dot or that I N F L at the C N, a a T. I N F O at the C N, a a dot Org we'rehere today with Nick Hazel Time from Walla Wall and Catholic schools. Nickis responsible for overseeing the entire athletic program because he, theAthletic Director, includes Managing Coaching Staffs and leadership withstudent athletes wallow. All the Catholic schools are known for formingthe whole student, mind body and soul, committed to the academic excellenceand the development of faith and reason students grow to be disciples of JesusChrist, strong and virtue exceptional in learning and generous in service.Nick welcome to the show, thank you for having me incited to beon here and chat a little bit about our school and our programs and just to getto know you a little bit too sure. Well, let's start with you, how did you getinto education? What's your background? Well, my mom was a teacher and is still coaching and sojust growing up. I think just naturally had that type of innate want to join or be part ofsomething with that type of role model and so going through school, whether it be Middle School,high school college and going through just even playing sports. I found thata majority of my mentors and role models were teachers, and so gettinginto education had a strong interest to me from my mom and then from my rolemodels going up my mentors growing up and then I kind of sparked just even inbigger interest, because I love athletics, so much it's kind of almosta merger of everything together of being able to do teaching, but also beable to extend that out more to athletics and then the athleticdirector and and be able to work with athletic programs, though so kind of mywhole background and and what I just naturally like to do fit all thosemolds. So going from that, you get out of college, you get done with yourtraining. What's the first step for you. That leads you on the path to where youare today. Well, the first step was trying to geta job. My first, you know what I'm certified inis Figia Physical Education, health and so just trying to get a teaching job. Iwas able to get a teaching job and from...

...there I actually was looking to furthermy education and my master's degree, and I found this really cool programcon at Concord University, Irvine of Coaching Athletic Administration. So Iwent through that program for a couple of years. I got my certification andAthletic Administration. Coaching going through that program really helped medevelop what I thought I need to know more in terms of the ministrative siteof the sports spectrum and from there when I was teaching at the sales andthe Walwa Catholic school system. It's such a small school system that the jobof athlete director opened up, and so I was able to slide into that position,while also still teaching a few classes a day. So I kind of just was a naturalslide in from getting the masters to, instead of full time teaching doingsome of the teaching and taking over the athlete director position. How longhave you been the athletic director, cove kind of throws a wrench in a D andwhat I'm counting as years or even blurred in my mind as yours, but thisshould be going on my third year as being the AthleteDirectorate to Sales Okay. So what do you consider to be the most importantpart of your role there? I would say if we're talking in termsof athletics, just making sure that you know we have a solid athletic programthat reaches all of our student athletes and that you know to do that.We have coaches in position that feel comfortable in the position therein and can lead specifically in those in those sports, and you know lone ofthe things that we've had to do a lot over the past couple. o years is justthere's been a lot of change over in coching staffs and so just looking at each sport and trying todefine the best person to lead that sport, because you know, if you don'thave a great leader in that area, it's hard to get kids motivated to want todo that. And you know our extra Christ killers, such as athletes, are soimportant for our students to really develop themselves into that fullperson, so I think just overseeing that whole program and making sure it'ssolid and I think a lot of that starts with you know the coaches we have inthose specific sports. Sorry now you've mentioned that Ovid nineteen is sort ofimpacted everything yeah. It's been a huge challenge across the board. Whatare some of the lessons that you've learned having to deal with thepandemic communication is key. A communicationis key and a coved er or not cove year,...

...and even in my first year, there's afew things that you just kind of you communicate with so many differentpeople, parents, coaches athletes, other athletic directors, the you know,secretary, the teachers, the officials and you miss one of those entities andall of a sudden, it seems like you've, missed a ton of the communication. Sonow communicating the unknown in Ovid wassuch a such a challenging, challenging thing because there's a lot of times, Ididn't even know exactly what would happen or what would go down. So thatdefinitely was one of the biggest lessons I learned. I think the otherlesson is last. You know last spring sport season around April, when thisall went down, we kind of thought we'd be out for a few weeks and then be back,and it was always like all right. Well, we'll be back in May, let's just shootfor me and then it got pushed to June and they got pushed to the fall andthen just kept getting pushed back, and I think you know when the kids started comingcoming back to school and just got to do some many train sessions, how happythey were just to be doing something. It's like the just to cherished theopportunity to play sport and as as much as we can right now we're trying to play, andsince we even came back, we are trying to get as many opportunities for ourstudent athletes to be able to participate to whatever extent they can,and I think that's something that sometimes you take for granted. Youhave your basketball schedule, then you have your. You know your spring sportsand you just go from season to season, and- and now I think, you're reallystarting to see the kids of parents, the the staff Imean everyone's just so excited to see these these athletes having a chance toplay again so really cherishing those moments to be together. Do Do you think that learning theimportance of communicating in an even deeper way is going to make us betteron the other side of this, I think so, I think in ways we've justhad to push ourselves like as ads. We have to work together to schedulewithin our leagues to come up with those you know, Lee game schedules andthe amount of schedules we've had to put in place this year and adapt andchange on the fly. I think it's really helped us as a league grow strongertogether and for me just looking at you know how I've had to really try tothink two and three steps ahead more so this year than any year. Previous, Idon't feel like. I was disorganized in a past, but I feel like now it's morecalculated how I'm looking at our schedules and how we're going to fiteverything in and and what's the best approach to maximize a great season forour student athletes, and so I do think that how much you know coid played afactor in US coming together more as...

...staff teachers and administrators. Ithink that piece will help quite a bit. So let's talk about the year. How isthe year gone for you so far? I think the year is gone as good as wecould have hoped. We came back in the fall and there are still a lot of knownunknown. When we came back. We are a small school. Our school you knowroughly has about Twenty fifteen to twenty kids per class, so it's arelatively small school when you're thinking about sixty ish to eighty kidsat the high school level, and then you also have the middle school, whereseven through twelve Middle School k through twelve Catholic school systemand so for us to come back in September when a lot of schools weren't comingback. We were, we were able to come back half time and from there we wereable to move to full time. We had amp it down a little bit when thenumber started really going up in the early winter, and then we were able tocome back in January, full time when a lot of schools still haven't even beenback full time in our area and are just going to be coming back full time. So Iwould say, from a schooling standpoint, US being able to be in person amajority of the year and full time for a good portion of the year has beenable to allow us to start our athletics a little bit quicker as well. So in thefall when we weren't able to go full born athletes, but we were able to dolike small pods of six with like individual skill workouts, we were able to be one a few schoolsactually doing that in person because of us being back in school and thatnaturally transitioned into the state allowing us to do more. Sothen we could do more small sided practices of six people practicingtogether and then that allowed us to amp it up into full practices togetherand finally into competitions. So every time we've had the ability to dosomething, we've been able to do it because of you know our teachers andadministrators really just kind of Puttin the extra effort into make sure we could be in school and then, as our coaches, you know wereasked to put in some of these extra hours to come in and help do thesetrainings with our athletes. Since we weren't having seasons at the time theystepped right up and did that and then you know these toent athletes come inwithout knowing, if they're going to be able to play, games or not hopeful toplay games and are attending these training. So it was kind of justeveryone really working together with what we could to make it all happen andthinking back on it truly, you know remarkable of what we've been able todo so a lot of restrictions, but I think for our school definitely thebest we probably could have done a lot...

...of things to be proud of in what youjust said. What are some of the things that your department is accomplished sofar that you are most proud of achieving? I would say this year beingone of the schools you know in the state of Washington and specifically inour area that has been yet has been navigating these ovid guidelines theright way and doing whatever we could athleticallywhen we could do it. Like I said before, coaches coming in and just doing thesesmall side, trains is not easy to come in and spend these extra times whenit's not necessarily your season to do it, and it's not easy for athletes tocome in and do these individual trainings, especially not knowing whenor what the season is going to look like. So that would definitely be one of my biggest things I'm proud of,and then from there we were able to finally start competitions in Februaryand seeing our kids back out just playing and doing sport, I think it'sdefinitely a huge remarkable achievement and our fans, our parents,everyone who came to support. I mean there is a lot of mask ideles that werefollowing there's a spectator limit that we had to have for our volleyballfor our fall indoor sports and everything we did was not a push back. It was all right.What can you know? What can we do to make sure our athletes and our studentshave a chance to play? So I think it's pretty remarkable. The communitysupport we had making all that come together to happen so looking ahead, maybe even past coved.What's something that you would like to achieve in your program there you know I was. I was looking at thisand kind of thinking, just just a little bit of go about this, and if I'mlooking past Ovid a head to our sport season, I think, if I'm looking to nextyear, specifically, the biggest thing I want next year is to have a full sportsseason, for all our programs be able to play a full schedule. Be Able to have our tournaments be able to have statechampionships. You know my hope is, and goals would be that all that can happenand then from there. If we're talking about some achievements, you know itwould definitely be awesome. We've traditionally been a school that has arich history of state championships. We've had number of championships fromthe s in the two sand and it's been a few years since we've been in the statetitle mix, and so it would be. You know really awesome to see one of our sportsteams in the mix for State Championship. Whatever the sport may be, it would bereally cool to see our kids have that experience again, that that sounds likea great goal to have going ahead. Now the the whole thing with Ovid is: it'sinterrupted our sense of normalcy. How of the students at your school Ihandled it as sort of a hole. I know...

...it's been a challenge all around. Howdo you think the kids there have handled it? I would say the kids havehandled it exceptionally. Well from the start of everything being asked, I meanthey're being asked to basically not go to school, for I mean from April,until all the way into September, you know they're out of school they're, youknow being asked to distance there being asked to. You know, stay awayfrom friends and big gatherings, and that's tough for for Middle School,High School, Elementary Age, kids, any age, kid, that's tough! So when we cameback and were half time, but we are still, you know, spaced out we're stillwearing masks, we have to be in certain classrooms during the day, so we're notcrossing paths and things of that nature. We're not doing a lot of moving.It's not it's not a same type, even though we're back. It's still not thesame regular school day that they're used to having, and on top of that,when we first got back, you know we have some of these sports trainingstarting to amp up, but we still don't have the regular practices happeningday. Today we don't have the regular games and just talking with kids, whoare missing out on the Friday night football games missing out on the homecoming dances. I just little things that you're so focused on getting back andtrying to navigate and and do what you can to be in person. You forget aboutall the the extra things our students are having to go through and for them to come back and be ablenavigate those waters, and you know really come to school every day with with asmile on their face, I think has been phenomenal in a sense. Obviously, there's points where we'rekids and even teachers right and coaches are a little over some of theguidelines and the rules. You have to do every single day and we're stilldoing every single day, but I think there's just a sense for everyone oflike we're in it together, and we want to make this work and it's like. Wedon't necessarily there's not anyone who wants to wear a masters o anyonewho's wants to stay distanced all the time, but we want to be in school andwe want to do sport, so I think as good as as they can for, foryou know, kids, who are not going through normal years, that they wouldtypically have so what are they looking forward tonext? Well, the kind of exciting thing rightnow is, from a sports perspective, we're in spring sport right now, so oursports season started in February. Just is just by the state of Washington whenthey started and the Wia and stay washing in conjunction with what wasallowed through the State Department of Health.

They allowed sport seasons to start, Ithink February. Second, and we started with false ports and then from falsesports have gone to spring sport. So we are currently in like baseball,softball golf and track at our school what we really tried to do with ourspring sports, since we didn't have any spring sports last year we got cut offafter two weeks is we are trying we tried to have you know these seasonsare like six to seven weeks are pretty short tight seasons and we tried tohave our spring sports be able to have some sort of like cominade events. Youknow we're not going to be able to go play a state championship or anythinglike that, so we put together some like little, like League mini tournaments,for each of our sports at don the season s like right now, our baseball and softball teams are arebattling to try to be in the top for the League, so they can be in this minipostes on tournament. That's going to happen the first week of May- and it'sbasically like one before to be three winters play for a League Championship.The track team is has been doing. A few meets and they'refinishing with a cross over meat and the top four kids in each of thoseevents will go get to go to this big cross over me and the golf team ispreparing for a mini district regional event that last week, so we were ableto put together these many League district type. COMENA events that thekids I mean are really like. Hony in and seeing like there is okay, so theseason does matter, it's not just playing games to play games like okay,I mean we have a big double header this weekend, so it's cool to see not onlythat our kids are playing to want to play to win, but they're actuallygetting opportunity to compete for something which which is given them. Alecture drive so talking a little bit about thechallenges that your school in particular, has faced things thingsthat we might not have mentioned so far. What are some of the challenges thatyou've been working to overcome in the athletic program o? I think this year, more than any, isjust like everything is defined by Ovid Cowith, this Co, it that it's it'snavigating what we can and can't do. I think that's been the biggest challenge,because there's so many like each sport is classified by risk and so there's alow risforo. A moderate report and high reports- and you know it's like abaseball softball- is a moderate risk. A track is a low risk port. A golf is alow report, so those athletes have the ability to play a little bitmore freely and what they can do in and out of practices and competitions thanthe athletes and like baseball and softball would, asfar as like wearing masks,...

...there's also some some of the thingswe've had to deal with like in terms of spectators and us being a small school.That hasn't necessarily been an issue, especially for outdoor sports, there'slike a limit of around two hundred, and we won't hit those numbers but forbigger schools. That's that's a deal where they have to then have like listsand tickets to give out for the event. So we've been fortunate. Some ways as asmall school or certain things we haven't had to necessarily jump overnavigate, but the consent, many guidelines we have to assess, with eachport and and what's coming with those sports, and as I mentioned, our sportsseasons are a little different. We have basketball coming up and basketball hasbeen the trickiest of all the sports, because it's classifies a high risk,indoor sport, which is the worst because it's indoors and it's high risk,and so you know now we are in a phase in our state that we can play, butthere is always a growing fear that if we hit these spikes in cases which arestate and a lot of counties have been hitting that we could revert back to aphase that doesn't allow us to play. So I think that has been a lot of thehurdles. Is You know, trying to navigate the low medium high risk? Whatsport can do, what and and just trying to figure it out to make it work so part of what you do is an athleticdirector in an athletic program is help your kids grow and develop. What arethe goals that you have for student athletes at your school and how do youhelp them reach them? Well, I would always say that you knowwith us, and our school system is unique. We are a Catholic School offaith based school. We we get to talk about Christ. Every day we get to talkabout our faith every single day. We get topray before practice after practice. So, ultimately, in our program, you know wehope that we have a faith based component with it, that other schoolscan't necessarily offer and that we can help grow our studentsand, as we mentioned, you know in a lot of our mission statements in the mindbody ansel. But then you know. Ultimately, we just want our kids tohave an outlet where they can be passionate about something and play to the best of their abilities,and you know when they're doing things like that, we know that they're goingto learn so many life, lessons in this sport that you don't necessarily learnin the everyday school classes. This iswhy it's an extra thing. This is why it's viewed as something that you're going to have togive a little bit more to because you might be the person who comes everypractice but doesn't necessarily get all the plane time. And what is themessage to that stunt athlete and how...

...is that relate to life beyond school?And what, if you are you know the the star player who's, getting all thepoints and doing all this and that? How are you going to be humble and whatyou are doing and how? How you represent yourself and others aroundthe school? And so it's just fascinating to always see those lessonsthat develop every single day and every single sports season and to see thecoaches who can really harness that with their athletes, because it is just such a uniqueselfless environment in a way. Because not everyone is going to beequal across the board. I mean you're going to have people at so manydifferent levels and it's really a lot like just life and how some things benatural fit, be super easy and come easy to you and some things you knowmay not and how you can handle on each of those situations to be the bestversion of yourself. So let's talk a little bit about your school's Culture.How would you explain into someone? I would explain the wall, a Catholic schools as a smallcommunity and if environment, but it's more just like family. As I mentioned,we are roughly fifteen to twenty a class and we have a eight through orsorry a seven through twelve junior high to high school altogether,and then we have a k through six elementary altogether. Butrealistically, in normal years, our high school kids mill school kids aregoing over to the elementary and we are celebrating mass together on certaindays and when we have a high school sportingevent, our elementary kids are coming to support our high school kids, and soit's just unique in that yeah. We have kids all over the the spectrum, butbecause of our class sizes, everyone knows each other. I mean most of thesekids. I was just looking at our senior class today I was going to begraduating here in a month and a half and most of those kids have been goingto school together since kindergarten, and so these kids are with each other, mostly throughout the entirety of theirjourney through the Catholic school system. You know with a few coming andgoing here and there, and I think that really just kind of some summons up the family nature that we have here at ourschool, which is really cool. It's cool to be able to walk down the hallway,and you know every single kid at that school. Definitely a unique situationfor you there yeah absolutely absolutely indeed. So, let's look alittle bit bigger pictured talk about the CNA for a moment. Do you have anyhiring insights for other schools in the CNA a they share with US yeah? I E N we've had to I mentioned USearlier: We've had to go through quite...

...a few different coaches hires over thepast couple of years. For various reasons and going throughthe process. You know one of the biggest things that always sparks aninterest in me. Right away is a really good resume and really good coverletter I mean, I think those are just having those spot on is- is really easyto separate the pack right away, especially if you're looking atmultiple candidates experience. Experience is always really big in mymind, because if you're able to come in- and itillustrates that you have lost skills- that's awesome, but if you're also ableto to show that you've had experience working with kids in certain areas thatspeaks volumes, because then you know that that person has already done itand it's going to be a lot easier to bring them in, and then you know justprofessionalism with what they're doing with how they're communicating to the person ahead of time. I thinksomething that always is, I kind of kind of I don't know. If I I kind of lie alittle bit of a bubble, I don't know if a bubble or a light bulb or whatever,but when someone's able to come in, you know looking for a job or whateverit is, and they know a lot about the school already. I think that issomething that shows that they, okay, it's not just a job that came up andI'm going to apply, for they actually have interest in us as a school, andthat's something that it's like. Okay, that peeks my interest to get to knowthis person a little bit more. So it's just some of the highlights that I'veseen over the past couple of years, when we've been looking at differentcandidates, what about facilities management, any ideas that might helpother schools, I think, having a risk management planis really key and that, basically just is assessing each one of your sites oncampus, your gym, your softball field, your football field, it's assessingyour exit strategies, its Successio, your hierarchy. If something happens onsite in this sport, or if I guess it doesn't even necessarily need to be asport, but on that specific site, you know, what's the protocol of what'sgoing to happen, and then you know, where are the medical supplies likewhere is aged located within your schools? That was something that cameup a couple years ago in one of the schools in town attract meand so just them, knowing where the D was right away and being able to get that and utilize, it right away life saving thing right there, justknowing where that is, and then how to use that. So Brisk Management Plan, Ithink, is really key and assessing all...

F your facilities, and I think, evenjust talking with coaches right, the coaches are the ones who know thefacility, the best the when having coaches meetings just asking them. Isthere anything that you know you are concerned with in your specificfacility and your specific jam, your field, whatever it is, they'll be theones that say you have. I mean this is what's happening and they can give youa lot better idea than anyone else of what's going on, especially if you'redealing with a bigger school that has multiple gyms, multiple fields allaround it. It's hard to know exactly where the issues are at all times thereand being pro active, as you mentioned, is probably going to be helpful,because a coach might not be as eager to come and say hey. I got a littleproblem over here unless they're asked because you don't want to be thesqueaky wheel, if you don't have to yeah, absolutely, I think, beingproactively with it and as an ad you were dealing with so much communication,I'm just once again, I'm at a small school, but the amount of emails Ifeeled every single day is is just crazy. Sometimes it's like man I feellike I haven't, got anything accomplished because I've just beenshooting email side to side back and forth, so sometimes something mightcome up and you're just so many other things come up with it that it gets alittle overlooked and I think, having those conversations is definitely goingto heighten your your need and your thought process of okay. This issomething that is obviously a bigger issue. We need to get this taken careof right away. So, let's turn to social media. For a moment, it's superimportant. How is your school been using it and ways that might be helpfulto other schools to know about? So when I started a couple years ago,there wasn't any specific athletic social media with the school. That'ssomething that I created with Instar and face book accounts, and my maingoal was to connect with alumni the best that Icould connect with families the best they could just try to basically relateinformation through those social meci es highlight are athletes highlight orsports programs. I would say that when we started up, Iwas doing a really good job. I think, since coved hit that something that hasslipped through the cracks with me, and so that's something that you know Iwould like to when we start to really roll into the normalcy of things.That's something that I would like to get back more on top of doing a betterjob of the day to day or every couple day post of what's happening. But I know our school in general has ahas social media counts associated with the school and our our social mediadirector there are director communication is really good abouthighlighting everything going on school and he will highlight the sports withinthose accounts. So I think as law as...

...there, someone within the schoolcommunicating what's going on social me. It just gives you a few extra eyes,especially I think alumni are pretty key in that, because keeping alumniinvolved. I think, just really helps your programs move forward, especiallyif there's ever any needs within those programs. I think those can be somereally nice relationships to build and talking about the CNA in general, whatbenefits have you seen by being a member school? Oh sorry, what d you say again, whatare some of the benefits you've seen from being a member school with C Naa? Well, I would say probably just thenewsletters is probably one of the biggest things navigating the site. Youknow that was something I was just looking at the other day for resources.That would be one of the other areas, but I think the newsletterswould probably be one of the the biggest things that would come to mymind. Just off the back. Okay right, we've covered a lot today. Is thereanything else, you'd like to add? No, I I think we hit it like. I said it's it's. Some of theseanswers would probably been really different a year and a half ago, if wehad talked- and it's changed so much with all schools with with Ovid, butyou know I love what I'm doing. I think it's also. I think we have a amazingschool at the great staff and, as I mentioned before, you know being anathlete reader director, it's just so fun, it's so fun to be able to workwith sports every single day, and I think you know if I was to give anyadvice. Communication is key. There are so many different people that yourcommunicating with every single day- and you know missing one of thosegroups- core groups when communicating can can be very detrimental to whatyou're trying to do so. You know making sure that to really cover the basis inthose areas really important for any athlete director, probably any level toin Casal time. Thank you so much for your insight and to managing sportsduring the pandemic. What's the best way for someone to find out more aboutyour program there and your school yeah. So if you want to just our web page-and that was something that was recently revamped, so it is really easyto navigate. I believe it's just Walwa Catholic schools and if anyone everwants to just email myself just ask questions, I am always open to talkwith anyone in terms of athletics, especially if, if there are otherpeople who are needing some advice and the athletic spectrum or or routes togo, if they want to become an athletic director and things like that, I'malways open emails, and it's just my first initial and Hazel time, Hazeltineat the W W C Scom, and you can also...

...find that probably somewhere on thewebsite. I imagine if you go to the faculty staff, all right nick. Thankyou so much for your time and stay safe. All right you to thank you for havingme. Thank you. Thanks for listening to today's episodeof the C N, a a podcast overtime say tuned for more episodes each monthfeaturing best practices for managing high school, Athletic Programs andCatholic schools. If you have questions or topic suggestions for the show,please email info at the c Naa door- that's Info Act, thus caa cord, and letus know what you think. I.

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