Marks Aims To Keep Ashland Athletics Moving Forward

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Stephen Marks with student athletes.
Issue Date: 
July, 2019
Article Body: 

Stephen Marks is pleased with the way his first year as Ashland High’s athletic director has transpired and he’s eager to continue building and improving the Clockers’ sports programs.
When the Bethesda, Md. native, who’s lived in town for the last five years, was selected as Ashland’s A.D., he stressed the importance of having the school’s athletic programs mirror the community and to be visible and competitive.
“Ashland is a proud town and its people are hard-working,’’ he said after his hiring. “I want our athletic programs to mirror the hard-working and proud culture of Ashland. I also want to increase our visibility. Youth programs in town are strong and I want our high school programs to be known in the community as a strength.’’
The 38-year-old Marks emphasized that he’s invested in the athletic program, not only as Ashland’s A.D., but also as a resident and a parent (father of two sons). So far, he’s delighted with the work ethic and the progress of Ashland’s student-athletes.
“The most rewarding part of my job is seeing student-athletes grow and progress,’’ he said. “They’ve bought into hard work and they take pride in representing the school. Whether it’s learning time management or hanging banners, I’m glad the way our program is taking shape.’’
The Clockers won two Tri Valley League titles (wrestling and swimming and diving) and were finalists at the Sectionals in football, baseball and ice hockey. Individual State champs included Michelle Grasberger and Alex Pecze (swimming and diving) and the wrestling team had three Sectional champs. Taking her game to a higher level, Sarah Simpson will be competing collegiately in Division 1 this fall for Merrimack’s women’s soccer team.
Much of Marks’ time is consumed with scheduling, budgeting, hiring, evaluating, and purchasing. He’s also involved in daily communication with coaches, athletes, parents and administrators. He also tries to be present at as many athletic events as possible.
“I’d like to clone myself three times,’’ he said jokingly. “That way I’d be available to see many events and be readily available for parents, coaches, referees and the kids. Nevertheless, I’m happy that my first year has played out well. The credit goes to the administration, coaches and athletes.’’
Marks likes the way Ashland has held its own in terms of athletic participation, with facilities and co-op teams. “Our participation rate is at 57 percent of enrollment,’’ he said, “but we’d like to see more kids compete at the middle school and freshman levels. Our facilities are a plus and we’re hoping to make some improvements to our softball and baseball fields. As for co-op teams, we serve as the host school for Alpine skiing and team up with Medfield. In girls ice hockey we’re with Medway (host school), Millis and Holliston. In gymnastics, we join Dover-Sherborn and team up with Medfield, the host school. Co-op teams are a plus because they provide students an opportunity to compete in a sport that might not be available at their school.’’
Marks has two primary goals for the next school year — promoting student-athlete leadership and continuing to enhance the Athletic Advisory Committee.
“I want to start a Captains Council,’’ he said. “I’d like to meet with all of our captains and get their input and ideas on promoting Ashland athletics in and out of school. Our coaches and myself would work with them on leadership issues.
“We started the Athletic Advisory Committee in my first year. It’s primarily to enhance the overall student-athlete experience. The mission is to support the development and growth of the Ashland athletic department.’’
Working with Ashland’s youth programs will continue to be a priority. Marks is pleased with the way his coaching staff has worked with youth programs. “We’ll continue to send our athletes to assist with coaching those programs,’’ he said.
Marks is acutely aware that coaches make an athletic program tick and he rates his staff as “fantastic.’’ He admires the coaches he’s inherited and the 16 new ones he’s added. “I like the energy and the enthusiasm they display,’’ he said. “I’d like to add logistical consistency to those qualities — like defining the requirements for being at specific events and perhaps to have an Ashland way on how we name captains.’’
Marks has high praise for the help he gets from administrative assistant Lindsay Duane. He’s also pleased to have Adam Troy, the athletic grounds-keeper, on board. Athletic trainer Aimee Mendoza also gets high marks. “Aimee does a terrific job in monitoring the health and safety of our student-athletes,’’ Marks emphasized.
Athletic fees will not be increasing and Marks is delighted they’ll remain status-quo. Middle School fees are $230 while most of the high school sports cost $290. Ice hockey fees are $450.
Aware that winning teams are a by-product of athletes’ reaching their potential and enjoying their competitive experience, Marks is a fan of the TVL, a circuit he views as ultra competitive. “We’ve gone from being a TVL Small Division school to a Large Division participant,’’ he noted. “We’re up for the challenge and I believe it’s built positive momentum. We want to use all the available resources to have the best athletic program we can possible have.’’
Stressing that athletics help students learn valuable life lessons, like being accountable and responsible, becoming better leaders and overcoming adversity, Marks favors a process that promotes student-athletes learning skills in practice, to be better in academics and to push themselves outside their comfort level.
Ashland’s athletic director is eager to dive into his second year and it’s fair to say that Stephen Marks is looking forward to starting and building positive initiatives so the Clockers’ student-athletes can be top-notch ambassadors for their school, their league and their community.