A week before the 2015-16 school year, first-year Pinecrest Academy athletic director Chris Kane already had a crisis on his hands.
The Paladins’ head volleyball coach, Meg Bohn, came to Kane to tell him she had to step down.
Already, Kane was getting a taste an athletic director’s life.
But the school’s former soccer coach rallied. He found a suitable replacement – middle school volleyball coach Sandy Seiferth stepped up – and the Paladins’ season went on with several memorable moments.
Football stole the spotlight, defeating defending champion Mt. Paran for the Paladins’ first region title since joining the Georgia High School Association and reaching the state quarterfinals. Competition cheer finished sixth at state. Girls tennis, girls soccer and boys soccer all advanced to the second round of postseason play, while boys tennis reach the state playoffs for the first time ever. Swimming had relay teams plus individuals Kate Del Balzo and Michael Denkman qualify for the state meet.
Seven teams in all reached postseason play, but it could’ve easily been 10. Girls basketball finished 17th in the power ratings, one spot away from qualifying for the state playoffs. Volleyball came within one match at the area tournament of reaching the state playoffs, and girls lacrosse came within a regular-season finale loss of reaching the state playoffs. Plus, wrestling kicked off its inaugural season.
Plenty for Kane to learn, but also plenty to enjoy.
FCN: How did this year meet your expectation and how did it surprise you?
Kane: “I fully expected what the work load was going to be – long days, late nights, just busy, busy, busy. Where it exceeded my expectations was the performance of the student-athletes.
“Starting with football. I’d been to football games but never really knew what went into putting on a football game. So with people like Bill Brown and Michelle Ojeda, who had basically run stuff over the last few years, I was like, ‘I need to follow you for a couple games like a puppy.’ That was great.
“Going into the year, one of my big things was I just wanted our coaches to coach. I think all the coaches were real appreciative from the get-go because they could just focus on coaching, especially on game day.”
FCN: The spring came around, and you weren’t on the sidelines coaching anymore.
Kane: “First time in 23, 24 years I wasn’t coaching.”
FCN: How’d you handle that?
Kane: “The standard answer I would people when they’d ask was, ‘I’m too busy to miss it.’ For as new and as crazy as the fall was, the spring was just crazy. Unlike the public schools in the county, we also have to worry about the middle school. So we’re trying to schedule everything. When Mother Nature needs to water things, that doesn’t work for us. So it was really crazy.
“I really didn’t get to as many soccer games as a lot of people would think. I think I was only at a half dozen, and four of those were the playoff games. I did find myself mumbling to myself, but I would keep it to myself. I thought Coach [Domenic] Martelli did a fantastic job. He took two teams to the second round. The boys had graduated seven starters. The girls had graduated five starters. He had people playing who’d never gotten any major playing time in the past. We were really inexperienced. Both teams went out to teams that either won or played for the state championship.
“I tell you what, the commitment of the coaches in the spring, because everyone wants the best for their kids, and I want what’s best for everyone, so trying to balance all that out was really, really more difficult than I anticipated. I learned a lot from the spring.”
FCN: How cool was it for the baseball program and your school to have senior catcher Andres Perez drafted by the Atlanta Braves?
Kane: “There are two great things that stood out this year. I was just doing an end of the year letter for the families. This year John De Palma, Class of 2011, signed a free agent contract with my Philadelphia Eagles. I was excited about that.
“And for Andres. I was with Coach [Ryan] Weingart on that day last Saturday. We got a text message that he was drafted. It was so exciting. So excited for him and his family. If there’s anyone who deserves something like that it’s that young man who’s got a lot going for him. It’s really exciting for the school, the baseball program and it couldn’t have happened to a better kid. He’s someone you want your son to emulate, just humble, just a good all-around kid.
“Just think about that household. His dad is up for the managerial job with the Braves.”
FCN: What are the things you have on the horizon for Pinecrest?
Kane: “The coaching question is always a big one, with GHSA rules of having to be a full-time employee to be a head coach for a varsity program is tough. It’s even tough for some of the big schools. For the small schools, our faculty is a fraction. But fortunately we only have two programs that we have to have faculty coaches that aren’t the most qualified. That’s something I’d like to get adjusted to where all of our head coaches are in the school teaching.
“Our facilities, that’s one of the biggest things for us. We’re so far behind our own region when it comes to our fields, locker rooms, no showers, field space. We added lacrosse but we didn’t add any fields a few years ago. That just makes it a little more difficult. So we’re about to embark on a capital campaign, and part of that is put in another field to build up a stadium with locker rooms and concession stands and bathrooms and things like that. That’s a big part of the plan.
“I think within three years you’ll see some of those movement, which I’m excited about. The administration is gung-ho about it, and we need it. If you look at our region now, we’re probably in one of the toughest Class 1A regions in the state, if not the toughest. When we get potential students who come, they look at the athletic facilities, and when you look at our facilities next to Mt. Paran or Mt. Pisgah or even King’s Ridge, we have to up the bar, and I think our administration has recognized that.”