Q&A with Julie Treadwell

Maine Central Institute

By Staff

Athletic Management, 15.6, October/November 2003, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1506/qatreadwell.htm

As Athletic Director at Maine Central Institute, a private school in Pittsfield, Maine, Julie Treadwell watches over a program with 29 teams in 20 sports. Also under her charge is the schoolís post-graduate boysí basketball program, which has earned a reputation as one of the nationís top prep school teams, with nine NBA players on its list of alumni.

If thatís not enough, Treadwell also coaches the girlsí field hockey team in the fall, and she just finished a one-year stint as President of the 25-school Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference (KVAC). During her time as president, Treadwell helped smooth the path for the arrival of two new members and put together a handbook for the leagueís athletic directors.

The 2003 KVAC Athletic Director of the Year, Treadwell has been at MCI for 20 years, serving at various times as basketball, softball, and field hockey coach, assistant athletic director, and dean of students. In this interview, she talks about learning to delegate, supporting her coaches, and leading her conference.

How does the post-graduate basketball program affect your job as athletic director?

I attend meetings, along with the coach, to maintain our status as a member of NEPSAC (New England Preparatory School Athletic Council), and we participate in some tournaments that are much different than most high school tournaments. We have a two-day tournament here at MCI that will bring 20 to 40 college and NBA scouts to our school. Itís a little different flavor in that type of atmosphere. But as far as day-to-day, it doesnít change my job at all.

What kind of benefits are there in having both a post-graduate and varsity team?

The coaching staffs learn from each other. In the past two to three years, the coaching staffs have become more cooperative with each otheróthey support each other, and thatís always good. The other benefit is that the post-grad coaches develop some pretty exceptional teams, and I think itís good for our varsity kids to see that level of play.

How do you meet the time management challenges of being an athletic director?

With the additional work of postgraduate basketball, there are a lot more details to take care of, including paperwork, phone calls, and media questions. To start, I rely very heavily on my administrative assistant. She works full-time for me and is a big part of this program. She doesnít get a lot of credit, but I really couldnít do the job without her. I also have an assistant athletic director who helps with game setup, especially in the fall and spring. He also covers for me when I have to be in two places at once.

How do you decide what duties to delegate to these people?

I look at my day, think about what I can delegate, and make sure that I trust the people I have, which takes a lot because Iím a pretty picky person. I want the school to be represented well. I want our coaches represented well. I want us to look good. I want our facilities to look good. So itís taken some time for me to trust that what others would do is the same as what I would do. Thatís been hard, but without being able to delegate, the work wouldnít all get done.

How did you get to the point where you felt comfortable doing that?

I think itís a process you go through with the people who are working with you. Kellyómy administrative assistantóand I have worked together for seven years, so weíve developed a lot of trust. But with the assistant athletic director, itís been a matter of going through from beginning to end what to do and how to get ready to handle certain situations. If situations come up, we talk about what we did and what we didnít do, and whether there is room for improvement. Itís a trust thing, which means going over details thoroughly with people who work with you.

How do you keep good coaches?

The pressures from parents and the perception that wins and losses are critical really push a lot of good coaches out. I donít have a magical answer. I wish I did. I just try to personally support each coach the best I canówhether it be with resources or my making time to talk with them. If I can support my coaches so they are happy with the system theyíre in, and we can keep our facilities in good shape, that helps in the end.

Have the outside pressures changed over the years?

I think itís gotten worse, and Iím not sure why. As a coach, Iíve always felt some pressure, but it wasnít as much from parents as it was from being a competitive person. Now there is added pressure, especially regarding collegiate athletic scholarships. There are many misconceptions on parentsí parts about scholarship availability. You hear how this decision to play or not play a kid will hurt their scholarship chance. But when one out of 100 play in college, the chances really arenít all that great anyway.

I think our society has changedókids and parents feel that athletics is a right, not a privilege. I believe that itís still a privilege. Athletes wear uniforms that are paid for by other people, and they represent a school, so that privilege can be taken away depending on how they treat their teammates, how they practice, how they workóall of that. To me, itís still a privilege that needs constant monitoring.

How do you help your coaches deal with increased expectations?

I tell them to focus on the things I think are important. For example, I ask them to reward the kids who commit to them, who commit to their teammates, and are good leaders. I tell them that I donít worry about Xs and Os, I want them to be good role models for their student-athletes and teach them about team leadership and team bonding. I tell them the losses will happen and the wins will take care of themselves, but thatís not the most important part of athletics.

As President of the KVAC, you helped publish a handbook for athletic directors in your conference. Whatís in the book?

It has an officerís directory, a calendar of our meeting dates, our constitution, and the responsibilities of the committee chairs, because a basketball committee chair has different responsibilities than one in ice hockey or baseball. We have a section on the Maine Principalsí Association, including a listing of the five major players in the MPA and who does what. We have different sections on recognition and awards that our league sponsors. We have a section on sportsmanship, because we have an extensive sportsmanship rating form that we fill out for every sport. We have directions and a mileage chart for all the schools, start times for different sport seasons, and a list of activities within those seasons.

We also added general information and helpful hints, like suggested interview questions and our broadcasting fee schedule if someone wants to broadcast a game. Weíve done some surveys on coaching stipends within the league and the book gives some helpful hints there, too.

The handbook gives new athletic directors a base to start from. But it is also a great reminder for those who have been here for a while. I look at my constitution periodically when I have a question on what my procedure should be, and as the chair of a committee I can look at what my exact responsibilities are. Itís at my side all the time.

What advantages and disadvantages are there in having a conference your size?

The advantages are the vast number of facilities we have access to. When we have a KVAC championship, we have some great facilities to choose from. And having a diverse group around the table for brainstorming or problem solving is a great thing.

One drawback is that travel can become difficult, but I think weíve found itís still okay within our league. Sometimes, the bigger you get, the less you are able to maintain those bonds between people around the table, but I havenít found that in the schools that have joined our league.

What do you like about being an athletic director?

I like being responsible. I think Iím a responsible person. I like to work on challenges and conflicts. Being at MCI as long as I have, I feel strongly about what we do here. I always wanted to teach and coach, and I find that in athletic administration I can still do a little bit of the teaching and coaching, but I can also help with the development of young coaches.