AHSAA's Savarese begins 'metamorphosis'
Kim West, Franklin County Times
MONTGOMERY – Steve Savarese describes the changes for the Alabama High School Athletic Association as a metamorphosis.
Savarese, 52, officially assumed duties last Wednesday as the new executive director of the AHSAA after completing a six-month transistion period with previous director, Dan Washburn, who retired after 17 years on July 31.
Savarese has 33 years of coaching and teaching experience in Alabama, including head coaching stints at Ensley, Benjamin Russell, Daphne and McGill-Toolen. He has also been an assistant principal and was voted "Teacher of the Year" at every school during his teaching career.
Savarese took Daphne to the 6A championship game in 2000 and 2003, and won the title in 2001.
In an interview earlier this week, Savarese discussed current issues facing the AHSAA, upcoming changes and his outlook on athletics.
FTC: Do you think private schools should compete in a different classification than public schools?
SS: My opinion is the rules are made by the schools. Private schools have been a part of the association since its inception. We follow the rules made by the schools.
If a public school has 100 students, the state counts it as having 100. But a private school has 35 extra students added to every 100 students it actually has, and adds an extra classification.
The multiplier was put in four or five years ago, and I think it has helped.
FCT: What are the major concerns of the AHSAA heading into 2007-08?
SS: The public-private issue is always going to be an issue. Both parts are an important part of the association, and both groups make a whole.
We should always analyze and tweak the system. There's a great foundation to our association by (former directors) Coach Bubba Scott and Coach Dan Washburn – both men have done a great job.
The next phase of our association will be the technology phase. We will look at ways to market our school and view events.
We are also looking at sportsmanship of the student, coach, fan and official – we are planning a major iniatiative in sportsmanship. It's in the evaluating and analysis stage, but in the future I wouldn't be surprised if all (student-athletes) have to complete a sportsmanship course.
We do not promote winning at all costs – we want an experience that is a lifelong benefit to the students.
FCT: The previous director had envisioned the AHSAA as a nearly paper-less organization in the future. When do you think that will happen, and what will it take?
SS: We're meeting with a lot of people and organizatons. amd we're in discussion with many companies that can aid us. We're close to signing some contracts – we'd like it to be a a total information site with everything from statistical data to an archive of athletic events.
We want it to be historic as well as being futuristic – you'll probably be able to watch an athletic event on your telephone. We want to be on a cutting edge of technology, and we've already been benchmarking other schools
We are in the middle of a quarter of a million upgrade to the (Web site). By the end we hope to be one of the leaders in the nation. We hope to finish five phases within a year, out of eight phases.
FCT: Do you plan to extend the required character education for coaches to high school players?
SS: That is only for new coaches hired since 2000. We're looking at developing a video course that a student or coach can take online at www.learningthroughsports.com.
We're one of five states that's working with this program. It's going to be a huge success because it is so positive.
FCT: What are your major short-term and long-term goals for the AHSAA?
SS: To analyze – everything will go through an an evaluation phase. This first year we'll evaluate everything and set up committees and then do a strategic five-year plan.
We've got so much to do, including the handbook, publications and streamlining our paperwork – we'll be gong through a metamorphosis.
FCT:Describe your leadership/management style.
SS: My leadership style would be I am going to be in this position passionate about what I do. I'm a big data person. I really believe in analyzing data and calculating what I do to make sure we do what's best for the coaches and kids in the state of Alabama. I always believed that you should preach the gospel and when necessary, use words.
We are in a service organization and we should be role models for students, teachers, parents and officials. Sportsmanship should be at the forefront of what we do and at all of our contests. It should always be a point of emphasis.
In a survey taken of ninth-grade athletes, over 90 percent thought it was OK to argue with an official. We have an ejection policy in this state, and our goal is that we don't have a coach or player ejected in a year. That might not happen, but that's our goal.
FCT: What is your favorite coaching memory?
SS: I have so many – the best part is all the children I coached. They're the highlights of your life and the everyday interaction with the children is what I enjoyed the most.
FCT: What inspires you?
SS: The opportunity we have to make a difference in a child's life. This job is a calling, and it's a very difficult job.
It's a calling to service – you have to want to make a difference for children and want to help coaches and schools. We impact communities, and we have to do things that give schools to the opportunity to be succesful.
FCT: Which role has challenged you more – being a coach or an administrator?
SS: You have challenges in both jobs, and challenges bring opportunities. We have to take advantage of those opportunities.
FCT: How do you like to spend your free time?
SS: My main hobby is my family. I'm a family guy, and I have wife of 31 years. I play the guitar at Mass. I just really enjoy spending time with my family.
I'm not a big golfer, but I love to fish. This week my wife and I are going with our family to go fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.