Brown Aiming to Keep KP Athletics Moving Forward

Ken Hamwey Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
July, 2019
Article Body: 

Gary Brown’s second year on the job as King Philip’s athletic director was successful on a variety of fronts and now the 44-year-old administrator is preparing to shift into high gear and make his third campaign even better.
The role of an athletic director in today’s age is far more extensive than in years past and their to-do list is full of twists and turns every day with an occasional detour tossed into the mix. Brown, who was Harvard University’s associate director of athletics for eight years before arriving at KP, has kept his focus on the right areas as he strives to enhance the Warriors’ athletic program.
His goals for the 2019-2020 school year speak volumes about his philosophy.
“I want the Student Athlete Advisory Committee to continue to progress,’’ Brown emphasized. “It’s open to all students and it offers leadership opportunities and community service projects. It also helps me to know the pulse rate of student-athlete involvement in all aspects of leadership.’’
Brown also wants his department to continue to meet students’ needs. “A good example is boys volleyball,’’ he said. “That new varsity program got underway in the spring. And, Alpine skiing is a two-year-old program and still relatively new.’’
His third objective is to offer KP’s student-athletes the best experience possible and that translates to obtaining outstanding coaches at all levels, maintaining a competitive schedule for all teams and ensuring that equipment meets high standards.
KP had its share of plusses in the school year just completed but one that should be greeted with lots of smiles for the next school year is the decrease in athletic fees. They ranged from $230 to $575 but now they’ll range from $200 to $500. “We want to make competing as affordable as possible,’’ Brown said, “and a lot of the credit goes to the district officials for an excellent job in dealing with the budget.’’
Although KP didn’t capture as many team trophies as it did in Brown’s first year at the helm, there still were championships and there was a plethora of individual honors.
During the fall season, the field hockey team won the Hockomock League crown and the football squad won the Division 2 South Sectional title. Two Hockomock League titles were won in the spring — boys and girls tennis — and the boys volleyball squad (first varsity season) finished with a 15-4 record and won a tournament game.
Three wrestlers had success. Sean Conniff was a sectional champ and he finished No. 2 in the states at 195 pounds. Luke Fitch was a sectional champ at 182 pounds and Mohammad Lotfi was second in the states at 145 pounds.
In track, Mike Griffin was the Division 2 state champion in the mile and Terrell Jacobs-Baston was No. 2 in the states in the shot put. In swimming, Tyler Stringfellow won the South Sectional 100 breaststroke in a time of 59.65
KP, which will have a dozen student-athletes competing at Division 1 colleges and universities during 2019-2020, honored Caroline Robertson and Justin Willson as its Hockomock League Scholar Athletes. Robertson competed in volleyball, softball and track and Willson played soccer and ran track. “It’s great to recognize true student-athletes,’’ Brown said. “They excelled not only in athletics, but also in the classroom.’’
Another positive includes the athletic participation rate, which Brown said was slightly up and “it continues a trend of rising numbers.’’
Thirteen new coaches were hired in Brown’s second year and he’ll be adding more at the sub-varsity level for the new school year. “The new coaches who joined us are great representatives of KP and they know the proper balance between competing and turning out good citizens for the communities we serve (Norfolk, Wrentham and Plainville),’’ Brown noted.
Brown has high praise for athletic trainer Adam Bennett, a KP alumnus, and Cheryl Rowe, a KP teacher. “Adam plays a crucial role in the department,’’ Brown said. “He ensures the safety and health of all our student-athletes. Cheryl is amazing, helping out in many ways. She registers athletes, updates the website and collaborates on schedules and rosters.’’
Five areas that dominate much of an athletic director’s time are budgeting, hiring, evaluating, purchasing and scheduling. And, as Brown says: “All are important and have to be approached with preparation and organization.’’
Brown admits those areas are “the moving parts’’ that make the job challenging. “Take things like uniforms, equipment and busing,’’ he said. “They all have to mesh at the right time. For games, enough uniforms have to be available and be the right size; equipment has to be certified; and busing must pick up and drop off participants at the right locations. Postponements create reshuffling and dates for events are changed mornings and at night.’’
Unified sports began last fall at KP and will continue in the year ahead. The concept brings together athletes, with and without intellectual disabilities, to practice and compete on the same team. “It’s a great way to build an inclusive high school community and to develop friendships among all students,’’ said Brown, who lives in Franklin with his wife and three sons. Basketball was played in the fall, the winter included bocce and track and field concluded in the spring. KP hosted the track championships.
Brown emphasized that facility upgrades have been a major plus and he’s delighted how valuable a role the turf field has played. “So many teams play on turf,’’ he said. “Teams that use the field are football, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and track.’’
Another positive is the relationship KP coaches have built with youth programs. “We want our coaches to be role models for the youth program,’’ Brown said. “We want them to engage with youth coaches and we’re pleased with how our coaches and students have worked at that level.’’
Brown is acutely aware of the importance of having winning teams and he knows that victory is achieved when student-athletes strive to reach their potential and enjoy an athletic experience. “We want our kids to compete at a high level and learn good life lessons along the way,’’ he said. “Being accountable, handling adversity, being resilient and understanding leadership are valuable lessons that can be learned in sports.’’
Brown has the highest regard for the Hockomock League and the 11 other athletic directors who direct the circuit’s teams. “It’s one of the most competitive leagues in the state,’’ he noted, “and the A.D.s work to make the best decisions for student-athletes. It’s a great group of administrators.’’
An athletic director is challenged often, in so many areas. But, there are upsides and Brown is quick to point to the favorite part of his job. “I really enjoy being surrounded by students, administrators, coaches and teachers,’’ he said. “They’re a great group that’s so supportive of KP athletics.’’
There’s little doubt that Gary Brown is a people person and that’s what makes him an ideal leader and a true ambassador for the school.