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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: Culnan new AD at Shenendehowa

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Culnan new AD at Shenendehowa

New CEO of athletics and school spirit ready
CLIFTON PARK — Just as students will be taking a step forward when the new school year begins, a year older, entering a higher grade, using a different locker and facing different teachers, the same is happening for former class assistant principal Christopher Culnan.


Culnan was named as the new Director of Athletics and Physical Education at Shenendehowa on Aug. 1 and on his first day of work he relished the position and the challenges that he faces.

“I’m extremely excited for this opportunity,” Culnan said. “I never thought this opportunity would come along.”

Culnan was a class assistant principal with the school district since 2005. Prior to that he was an assistant principal at Rensselaer City Schools and Christian Brothers Academy. He was also a history department chairperson at CBA along with teaching history at CBA and Guilderland.

“I thought I was more on an administrative path, a principal career path,” Culnan said. “This is a great opportunity. I love the administrative aspect of the job and have a passion for sports. I think I’m combining the best of both worlds.”

Culnan coached varsity basketball at Rensselear and was busy prior to that at CBA, coaching JV basketball, freshman basketball, varsity golf and tennis.

Culnan replaces Matt Jones, who stepped down from the administrative position and returned to the classroom where he would continue to coach track during all three seasons.

“One day someone sent me an e-mail that I should check the board (of education) minutes,” Culnan said. “There was the announcement of Matt’s (Jones) resignation and assignment. I gathered my resume, applied and I was the successful candidate. Now it’s starting to sink in.”

Culnan said he fits the vision of future athletic directors as well as meeting the criteria set forth by Shenendehowa Superintendent Dr. L. Oliver Robinson.

“I think you are seeing more colleges model their AD positions after somewhere like Vanderbilt,” Culnan said. “You are seeing people take the position with more of an administrative facet two them. I felt that was a strong point during my interview after my years here at Shen.”

With Culnan responsible for an athletic budget exceeding $1 million, 67 head coaches for 32 different programs, the position is no longer to be just a sports cheerleader and guide, but to be the school’s CEO of athletics.

On his first day in his new office at Shen’s High School East, Culnan talked about his plans, goals and vision for the Shenendehowa athletic programs.

“Early on I want to acclimate myself to the office here and get a better understanding of the staff,” Culnan said. “We have a great group of coaches at Shen. I am looking to tap into their way of coaching and combine it with my own goals and philosophy.”

Culnan said he has two challenges facing him immediately, the same two voiced by former athletic director, Matt Jones…too many potential athletes and too few fields to compete on.

“We currently have only a handful of modified sports,” Culnan said. “I would like to talk to the program coaches and lay out a plan down the road to put in place modified programs over the next three to five years. We would phase in a few programs each year. It would provide an opportunity for more kids to play at the appropriate level.”

The continuing expansion of the Shenendehowa campus, additional buildings and classrooms creates an emergency for available fields for the Plainsmen programs.

“We are limited on the number of places teams can practice,” Culnan said. “The space we do have, we use as much as possible and it’s a constant balancing and juggling act. That
is something we need to work on in the here and now.”

Culnan is aware that more programs and more fields require more funding.

“We all want more,” Culnan said. “All taxpayers want great programs for our kids, but we all want low taxes. We have to maximize the dollars for our programs.”

With his new position, Culnan will also be an administrator for Shenendehowa’s Athletic Code of Conduct, something he became extremely familiar with this spring as an assistant principal with the 2007 graduating class and the students involved.

“The challenge with that incident was that people don’t recognize the amount of good kids and the number of athletes that were not involved,” Culnan said. “It was a bad decision by those involved and tarnished the schools image.
“We have to educate our students and athletes that attending Shen, the prominence they hold in the community and the area,” Culnan said. “This is a big school with a winning tradition and with that comes responsibility.”

With a full plate on his first day, Culnan reflected on how his life has come in a full circle.

“I’ve been around my dad who was an athletic director for 18 years and a coach for 12 years,” Culnan said. “I always remember as a kid, hanging around after basketball games, shooting hoops while he cleaned up until he turned out the lights and was the last guy to leave the gym. I guess it’s my turn now to turn out the lights and be the last guy to leave.”

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