Lee Ann Race has always had a passion for sports, but this summer her passion took a new turn, when she became the new West Holmes High School athletic director (AD).
The challenges and the newness of it all has certainly been inspiring to say the least, but Race feels extremely at home in her new digs.
“Yeah, it’s been a very busy time but I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far,” said Race of her early experience as AD. “This is right in my comfort zone. I have always loved sports and been around them all my life, so this seemed like a natural fit.”
Whether it is working with the coaches, the student athletes, other athletic directors, the West Holmes booster club, state officials or referees and officials, Race has taken the job and made it hers, taking the things she learned under the tutelage of former athletic director Todd Day, with whom she took a crash course in preparation last spring and early summer, and adding her own flair to the position.
“Everyone has been so supportive so far, and that has made everything so much easier,” said Race of the transition into the position. “Even other school athletic directors have called and told me that if I need anything, I shouldn’t hesitate in asking.”
Race has taken up several of those who volunteered, bouncing some ideas and questions off of Sean Carmichael at Triway and Kent Smith at Orrville, among others.
Ron Dessecker, the Ohio Cardinal Conference commissioner, has also been very outgoing in offering his hand to help out whenever and wherever possible.
As for her ties to West Holmes, Race is about as firmly entrenched in West Holmes sports lore as you can get, whether it was playing for State championship Lady Knights basketball teams, rooting on the teams or coaching at the junior high level.
Her passion for sports had led her to at least talk about possibly pursuing an athletic department job five years ago, when she and her husband, Tony, discussed it.
“Tony really encouraged me when we first talked about it, and that was about the time I got back into coaching,” said Race. “But I could not have done this job five years ago. Now that I have been in the system and been around sports again for the past five years, I feel much more comfortable.”
Race said that having had the opportunity to be a part of West Holmes Lady Knights head basketball coach Lisa Patterson’s program was a huge plus for her, as was having the opportunity to coach the junior high girls with Steve Frank. Even having played hoops with current West Holmes superintendent Kris Pipes Perone has made her feel more at ease in the job.
Race had been working in the school district with the treasurer’s office as the payroll officer, and she got a chance to see how the financial side of athletics and the school district as a whole work. She said that will help her immensely with the organization needed to successfully operate the school’s athletic department.
Race said that the organizational aspects of the job, such as lining up officials or making sure fields are ready to go, are just a part of the overall purpose of her wanting to take on the role of AD. Her main objective is to focus on whatever will benefit the student athletes.
“I hope that above all I am a link to these kids,” said Race. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of these kids, and a lot of these seniors are kids who I’ve seen grow up here. What I am doing is mainly for them, and to benefit their hard work and dreams of playing, no matter what the sport.
“I want to make sure they have the very best opportunity to succeed, and I want to be an advocate for the school for their sake more than anything else.”
The one biggest asset she believes she has is that for as long as she can remember, she has been incredibly organized. Her astuteness for details and keeping everything in order is something she feels perfectly fit to accomplish.
Dressed head to toe in Knights Red, White and Blue, Race has bled the West Holmes colors since her young days in school. That passion for her school and the district carries over into her new role.
“I know a lot of these people, I went to school with a lot of these people, I live with these people… This community has been a part of my life forever, and the community as a whole has been so supportive and I have heard so many well wishes. I think being approachable is a big part of this job, and having a history with so many people here and with the district can only be beneficial for me.”
In late July Race took over the AD role in earnest, and since then it has been a whirlwind of excitement, challenges and positives for her.
Yes, she has had her share of questions and challenges, but for the most part it has been a very smooth transition.
Part of that has been her willingness to be flexible and willing to roll with the punches.
However, she has been relentless in her pursuit of communicating with coaches, something she is sure they are nearly tired of already.
“I’m pretty sure that the coaches are already sick of getting email and texts from me,” said Race with a hearty laugh. “But that is the way I operate. I am a communicator and I want everyone to be on the same page. The one thing I really wanted to instill in our coaches was that they need to make sure they were communicating with the parents. If the parents know what is going on, you’re going to have less problems, and kids aren’t always the greatest at relaying information to their parents. That was my number one goal for us.”
No matter her role and what sport she is working with or attending, one thing is certain: Lee Ann Race will bleed the Red, White and Blue of West Holmes, and she will do it all for the kids.