Lake Tahoe School District board approves new athletic director
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The Lake Tahoe Unified School District board approved math teacher and assistant football coach Doug Russell for the athletic director position at South Tahoe High School on Tuesday night.
Russell is taking over for Don Borges, who moved back into the classroom after the athletic director position was trimmed from full time to part time. The new director will teach a period of math and perform athletic duties for two periods. One period will be a prep.
“We’re very excited to have Doug on board, but he has some pretty big shoes to fill. It will be challenging for him to do it, as it has now become a part-time position, but we are eager to work with him to make it happen,” STHS principal Ivone Larson said. “He’ll be teaching one section each term in math, so I’m glad to be able to keep his foot in the door in the math world, because he is definitely a talent in that arena, and we’ll be able to stay connected that way and how we scheduled it. He’ll start his mornings working as an AD, teach a class, and continue on (as athletic director) in the afternoon.”
Russell’s career with the high school began in athletics and then moved into education. He coached baseball for six years and football for five.
“I was a coach before I was a teacher. I was living in Lake Tahoe and had heard there was an opening for the baseball (coaching) job and found myself interested,” he said. “And after earning that position and coaching for a year, I realized I needed a job to support my coaching, so the most logical avenue was teaching and I got my credential and a year later I landed a position in math at the high school.”
Russell came to the school as a baseball coach in 1999 after working in the front office of several Minor League Baseball teams, an experience he said he can use in his new position.
“I started as the assistant general manager for the Helena Brewers, part of the Milwaukee Brewers organization, and the next year I was the general manager for the Butte Copper Kings, also in the Pioneer League, short-season (single-A) ball,” Russell said. “Finally finished up in Bend, Ore., in the Western Baseball League in the front offices as assistant general manager there, and one thing led to another and found myself in Tahoe.”
Russell, who will continue as an assistant football coach for the Vikings, said he is planning to encourage more students to be involved with sports at the high school.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the individual teams grow as teams. I’m looking forward to students at the high school being prideful in their sports and hopefully getting more students active in sports because, for me, sports was the best part of high school,” he said. “I enjoyed them. They allowed me to stay fit. They allowed me to socialize with people, get out and see how other teams run, how other schools run. I’d really like to see more people participate in sports.”
There are several issues the new athletic director will have to address, with one being which division – and which state – South Tahoe will play athletics in. Currently South Tahoe plays in the NIAA Northern 3A, and has for many years, but finances and competitiveness have brought up the question of which division South Tahoe should play in. Borges, the former athletic director, said the school has three options when it comes to playing sports: Participating in its current division, go back to Nevada’s large-schools division or participate in the California Interscholastic Federation.
“Officially there have been no conversations. We have, just last month, agreed to two years of where we are now,” Russell said. “We are committed to the North 1A (formerly Northern Nevada 3A) for two years. I think during that time, that is going to be a focus of mine to see if there are better options financially and athletically for us to check out.”
Russell’s official first day of work is July 1, but he began training for the job much earlier. For now, he’s not anticipating any big changes to athletics at South Tahoe.
“Big changes, no. It’s going to be status quo until I get my feet wet and understand how to work in this position, learn how decisions are made, learn why decisions are made,” he said.
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