Athletics bring own hustle and bustle to new school year

The hustle and bustle of a new school year is felt by so many — students, teachers, and parents who finally free themselves from a summer’s house full of youngsters. And while some of those students and teachers get ready for the fall sports season, too, there are another few folks who feel the crunch this time of year.

“The fall is definitely the busiest season,” Naugatuck athletic director Brian Mariano said.

Mariano is in charge of the athletic program at the third-largest school in the Naugatuck Valley League. The school also happens to boast arguably the best athletic complex in the area thanks to its renovation earlier this decade.

And with a complete contingent of sub-varsity teams to go with its competitive varsity squads — the Greyhounds might be NVL favorites in football and boys soccer this fall — the complex is buzzing almost every day of the week.

That’s where the athletic director’s job gets busy.

“The way varsity and sub-varsity seasons get set up, (games are) always on different days,” Mariano said. “Typically four or five days a week there’s a game, and then we have to confirm the times, officials, schedules. With the turf we’re lucky that we don’t have to cancel as many games (as schools with grass fields), but (if there is a postponement) we have to try to find a makeup spot that doesn’t give you too many games in one week or interfering with opportunities for kids who play JV.”

Woodland AD Brian Fell said he doesn’t find the fall to be any more stressful than the winter or spring seasons, but the major difference is that school isn’t in session when the preseason begins in August.

“The only real difference is that the things you do in the preseason you have to do in the summer,” Fell said. “You might have some trouble tracking down people with vacations and contracts not being set yet. In terms of uniform preps and all of that, it’s not much different.”

Naugatuck tries to be proactive with its summer work by communicating to graduating eighth-graders and other first-time athletes what will be expected of them when the season starts.

“We let them know they need a physical, paperwork signed, when to show up for first practices and tryouts,” Mariano said. “We’ll miss some kids, and they show up on the first day of school looking to join the team. They’ve already missed a week of practice by that point.”

Athletic directors can have some of the longest days in the school system, too.

“I don’t have an average day, to be honest,” said Fell, who is also Woodland’s dean of students. “There are days I’m in at 7:30 (a.m.) and home at 9:30 at night. There are days I’m like a normal administrator, in at 7:30 and home by 4. I’d love to say I have an average day, but with the lot of different hats I wear, every day is different. And that’s OK with me. I knew what I was getting when I entered this field years ago.”

“I’m a little bit luckier than some ADs because my superintendents understand my role and allow me to have flexible hours,” said Mariano, who also has responsibilities as the curriculum director for the school district’s physical education, health and wellness, and student activities departments. “On a football night if I’m there until 11 p.m., they’ll understand that I might come in at 11 a.m. On average, I’m coming in at 9 a.m. and leaving at 9 p.m. It’s pretty normal in the fall that I’m doing 10 to 12 hours a day, four or five days a week.”