Athletics often compliment the more traditional lessons of the classroom as an essential part of the school environment. This summer Matt York joined the Franklin community as our Athletic Director. This position’s responsibilities include communication with coaches, equity and community of programs, and scheduling field time. As he described it, “AD’s are servant leaders.”
York grew up with multiple siblings and played varsity baseball and basketball. “[T]hrough some of the toughest times with my parents divorcing [sophomore year] and living in the house with three sisters and a brother, life got a little tough. If it wasn’t for my coaches and my teammates, I don’t know if I’d be standing here today. And I utilize that—the way I grew up—as an opportunity to give back to the students who may be in the same boat as me.” Looking to grow as an athlete, York continued baseball at Mount Hood Community College until he transferred to Colorado State University of Pueblo (division 2) for his final two years.
In high school and beyond, the trial and error of discovering who you are as a person can be exciting but equally exhausting. York stated, “[To] really mature and grow up in sports; the greatest place to fail is on the sports field…where somebody’s going to pick you up, hug you and say ‘hey, good job. Next time let’s do better’.” Although seven hours a day of school plus homework is taxing, joining school affiliated programs can provide a lot of support that, in the end, eases those burdens.
With this new position of leadership and influence, York hopes to expand programs. “I would love for as many students to participate in sports as possible. You know, any freshman who wants to come in and try. I know we have cut sports and we have no cut sports, I know people get set on what they want as a particular sport, maybe they don’t make it, maybe they have the opportunity to try a different sport, maybe they could be really good at it. If nothing else they have an opportunity to build friendships.”
While one aspect of growing Franklin’s athletics is participation, York stepped into this position at a critical time in Franklin’s history. Along with the challenges of readjusting to in-person learning, and coping with the effects of the pandemic, there has been tension around sexual assault allegations and tolerance of that culture. These tensions came to a head at a home football game on a Friday night, resulting in continued feelings of frustration among the student body.
When asked if York had any experience dealing with issues of sexual assault in his career in education and athletics, he states: “I don’t know if that is something that’s ever happened before in my other districts, or if it has happened and people haven’t reported. I can’t explain why it hasn’t happened but my hope is, in a perfect world that girls have been treated respectfully, and that relationships are positive. So no, I haven’t had to deal with that before.”
It is understandable that an influx of challenges upon arrival could be daunting. It seems that the best foot forward is intentional action. When asked how he intends to create a climate that feels safe for female athletes, York said, it boils down to trust. “[I]t’s working with our administration, and then our district, to make sure that we’re offering the right resources for our students. And that students know where to go to report things. I think if we do all those things, our female athletes will feel empowered with their voice and I think they’ll feel more safe,” states York. “With that, at the end of the day with our athletic teams, we just need to make sure that our athletes have good relationships with our coaches, and that’s key.”
One of the qualities of a leader is being willing to listen; Matt York is lending an ear. He says he hopes students will drop by, introduce themselves and have a conversation. Ultimately, these new beginnings are opportunities.