GREENFIELD — Jared Manning knew he wanted to be an athletics director.
His passion for sports as a multisport athlete at Greenfield-Central High School planted the seed. The insight he gained as a teacher and a coach after he returned to his hometown from Franklin College and Purdue in 2004 further bolstered his motivation.
All he needed was the opportunity. And when former Greenfield-Central athletics director Kevin Horrigan stepped down after 12 years as administrator, the time was right. Recommended for the position by Horrigan before the 2014-15 school year, Manning said being hired as the athletics director at his alma mater was a dream come true.
Now, with his first year behind him, Manning said he still feels the same way.
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He approaches each day with one purpose: to give all student-athletes at Greenfield-Central a chance to succeed and fulfill their potential. When he’s not focused on work, he cherishes down time with his wife, April, and 5-year-old daughter, Aubrey.
While the job often presents new and unexpected challenges, the 35-year-old lifelong learner said he welcomes each one. He’s home. Right where he belongs.
“Coming in I was already very familiar with how the athletic department was run,” said Manning, who earned his master’s degree in educational administration at Ball State University. “It was something I always wanted to pursue and appreciate every day. It’s been a great experience.”
Recently, Manning spoke with the Daily Reporter sports staff, discussing his first year as athletics director, the lessons learned and the future of Cougars athletics:
How daunting was it initially following Kevin Horrigan as the new athletics director at Greenfield-Central?
It was pretty daunting actually. I worked with him for 10 years, and I knew the years and hours he’s spent here to get everything to where it is. Obviously, you don’t want to go backwards in any respect. At first, it was kind of breathtaking when you sit back and think about all you have to do and need to get done, especially when you’re following a guy that had done it for so long and was very, very good at it.
But he left us in a pretty great situation. There’s no doubt about that. I definitely appreciated that, and I’ve let him know that multiple times. He left it where I could come in and take over and run with things and not have to do a lot of the legwork up front.
What has been the best thing about the job during your first year?
People ask me that quite a bit. The best thing for me is being able to interact with our student-athletes. Before I was a soccer guy, a basketball guy and a baseball person. I didn’t get to interact with our volleyball players, our wrestlers, our swimmers, or our track and field athletes. A lot of that stuff was kind of new to me. To be able to go and interact with the coaches, players and parents of those groups and to support them has been very enjoyable to me.
What was the biggest hurdle you faced and had to overcome in your first year?
There are a lot of them (laughs). You go from coaching into administration, and you find out there’s a lot of time that must be devoted. Not necessarily to events and events supervision or management of events, but more time dealing with the budget and scheduling than I originally thought. The paperwork aspect, in order to get those things done and prevent them from piling up, takes time.
How flexible does an athletics director need to be when it pertains to scheduling, especially when taking inclement weather into account?
You really have to be. The one thing you can’t get around is weather. You can’t control it. If you fight it, you’re going to drive yourself crazy. What you have to take into account, especially if you’re hosting an event, is one, the safety of the student-athletes, and two, the safety of those coming and going from your event. If there’s an issue or you’re going to second-guess yourself by hosting an event, you’re better off just canceling it and rescheduling it for another day. If you don’t have that flexibility and are dead set on playing games, that’s when you’re going to get yourself in trouble.
This past year, Greenfield-Central played host to a volleyball sectional, a boys basketball sectional and a boys golf sectional. How did you approach those events?
You approach it by over-planning. At least, I tried to. I talked to Kevin about what he had done in the past, took a look at how we might make those events a little bit more special for the kids and how to make it easy for those teams to come in here and practice and compete. We just tried to be as prepared as possible by over-thinking things and over-preparing for every situation in case of weather, a team shows up late, in case we have a locker room that can’t be used. I tried my best to over-plan with the help of a lot of individuals in the building.
Being the largest school in the county, do you foresee Greenfield-Central challenging more in the major sports landscape in the near future?
There’s no doubt we’ve struggled in our major sports over the last few years, but that’s not from a lack of effort. Seeing what we have in our building now and what is coming up, I believe the best is yet to come. I think our football team is moving in the right direction and they’re going to be very competitive this year. Our volleyball team is the same, and what our coaches have done in boys and girls basketball and the athletes they have, I look forward to seeing that develop and the future.
What are some goals you want to achieve as you move into your second year?
We’re always looking to improve our facilities, and I say that because as a former student-athlete, it’s important to provide our student-athletes the best in order to help their progression. It improves their experience. That’s going to be on the top of my priority list. We have a long-range goal of getting turf on our football field and that’s going to help all of our sports. …
Obviously, we’re going to do our best to help promote our programs a little bit more as well. And we’ve seen a real push lately to get our student-athletes to give back. That’s one thing I’d like to develop further, giving them opportunities to give back to the community in a positive way and provide more avenues to build upon what we already have in place like Kick It for Cancer in girls soccer and Coaches vs. Cancer in basketball. It’s a work in progress, and it always will be, but we look forward to keeping those moving forward.