As Paul Lagerstedt watched Thomas Jefferson High School’s graduating class of 2014 walk the aisles to receive their diplomas, he couldn’t help but realize that he hardly knew many of the kids on a personal level.
That’s something he wanted to change.
Fortunately for Lagerstedt, he’ll get that opportunity after being hired as South Whidbey High School’s athletic director in June.
“I want to know the kids that I’m administrating and that I’m part of their growth, their education and their high school experience,” Lagerstedt said.
Lagerstedt brings 17 years of experience as Auburn’s Thomas Jefferson’s athletic director to the table. While at the Class 4A school, his coaching hires helped rebuild a girls basketball program in poor condition when he arrived, while participation increased to a stable position in girls volleyball. He also hired former Central Washington University head coach Jeff Zenisek to lead the football program.
Lagerstedt was also a longtime English teacher prior to becoming an administrator.
His goals at South Whidbey include getting to know students and the community on a personal level, continuing to build the athletic programs, increasing participation in extracurricular activities, and integrating with the Falcon culture while also finding ways to make it better.
“We’re very fortunate to have someone of his caliber here,” said principal John Patton, who is a former athletic director himself. “What I loved was from day one he was a ‘do’er.’ He is getting out there to middle school and high school practices and getting to know people and getting to know the community. You can tell he’s really trying to figure everything out as far as how our school operates and how our community operates.”
“His rapport with students and staff already is just a great fit,” he said. “I’m very happy, thrilled.”
Lagerstedt learned of the opportunity from his friend and former South Whidbey athletic director Kelly Kirk.
“He always just said what a great spot this was and the people, the staff, the kids,” Lagerstedt said. “Then some things happened in my life, my wife’s job changed and allowed her not to be tethered to Tacoma anymore. We’ve always liked the area up here.”
Lagerstedt also coached basketball as an assistant for many years. He spent around 10 years working alongside legendary Mercer Island coach Ed Pepple, the winningest coach in state high school basketball history.
What he took away from Pepple’s approach as a coach applies to his fundamental philosophies as an athletic director.
“One of coach Pepple’s strengths was organization and attention to detail,” Lagerstedt said. “I learned at Mercer Island the difference between coaching a team and coaching a program.”
“One thing that I could bring is my experience and share some of the things that I have learned. It doesn’t matter whether its football or baseball or whatever it is —those principles of organization, attention to detail, being three or four months ahead or a year or two ahead, thinking that far ahead, makes a huge difference,” he added.
The Falcons’ first-year head football coach Michael Coe is as fresh to the program as Lagerstedt is. But in the short time the two have known each other, Coe is already sensing the beginning of a great working relationship.
“As a new head coach going in, you’re hoping your athletic director is really supportive of the program,” Coe said. “He’s all in. I couldn’t have asked for a better scenario.”