By Rory Sharrock
Ask any high school athletic director what's the most important element of the job and they'll quickly respond by saying time management.
The school doors are open for business from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
But the demanding work schedule of an athletic director is like a life unto itself, requiring an individual to sometimes burn the midnight oil with far and few break between shifts.
This overwhelming and often under-appreciated position is a heavy cross to bare for just one person, so the powers that be at Lovejoy High School recently decided to make it a joint operation.
Now, current athletic director Al Hughes, who also serves as varsity head football coach, should be able to rest a little bit easier as former football director of operations and Lovejoy wrestling coach, James Stanford, has been promoted to co-athletic director.
"As we've moved to 5A competition, and with our student enrollment above 2,000 as of the first day of school, it's very hard for someone who is the head football coach to be an athletic director," said Stanford. "As schools get bigger and bigger, there is more paperwork to do. This helps you do things more efficiently."
Stanford, who in 1999 earned a degree in business management from the Terry College School of Business at the University of Georgia, is a life-long Clayton County man with a deep passion for young people and sports.
During his teen-age years, this class of 1994 graduate played football, golf and competed on the wrestling squad at Jonesboro High School.
He later cut his teeth in coaching as an assistant in football as well as head man for the wrestling and golf team at his alma mater.
In 2004, he went across town to Lovejoy where he served as an assistant under Hughes and as head coach for the Wildcats wrestling team.
However, last season, he took on a bigger role as an administrator, filing forms and attending various meetings, which ultimately helped prepare him for this transition as an executive at Lovejoy High.
"As new issues come up with the Georgia High School Association, that's something you always have to relay to your coaches. With the heat, we're always making sure it's safe to practice. There's always new policy changes coming from the GHSA and from the county Board of Education. A lot of it is being a good communicator and making sure the coaches and parents know what's going on," said Stanford.
Among the many upgrades Stanford and Hughes envision is to replace a lot of older equipment, including soccer goals, wrestling mats and improve the training facilities.
In addition to the renovations, they also want to earn enough overall points to win the GHSA Directors Cup.
Yet, with all these internal challenges, both athletic directors are in the midst of a county-wide crisis surrounding the district's potential loss of accreditation and mass exodus of students fleeing for greener pastures.
"We're thinking we're going to keep it. We had a few athletes that have decided to go ahead and change schools, but not very many.
We kept most of our football guys, especially the seniors. I really hope we don't lose it because Clayton County has some good things going on," said Stanford.
It's this positive mindset that has coach Hughes feeling very optimistic about Stanford's promotion and how he can help elevate Lovejoy's status as one of the premiere schools in Clayton County.
"The last couple of years, the athletic director has gotten to be a real handful. I've known James for along time - since before he was born," said Hughes.
"He was looking to gain some experience in that area. So, it just seemed like a good idea to be to bring him along as co-athletic director and give him an opportunity to do all the things that I didn't have time to get done."