Grapevine Courier

March 3, 2014

New GCISD exec athletic director stressing communication

The Lonnquist Notes Phil Blue’s first order of business will be to make sure everyone in his department is on the same page – though he does have a Grapevine football coach to hire.

If you polled every head coach between Grapevine and Colleyville Heritage to find out what the biggest problem this district faced in athletics, communication would lead the list.

When an athletic department is struggling, it’s usually because people just aren’t staying in touch and making sure everybody is on message. That’s what new athletic director Phil Blue has to develop when he starts his new job on Thursday.

There’s a sense of relief from within the community that the search has ended with the hiring of the former Georgetown athletic director. Now a different sense of unrest begins, because these coaches have never met Blue, don’t know his philosophy and haven’t been made aware of his expectations.

In time, that will happen. But here’s what Blue wants to do: he wants communication to be better between himself and his coaches and between his coaches the administrators, parents and community. That’s what worked at Georgetown since he arrived in 2005.

“Every year we set district goals,” Blue said. “It was very simple. Let’s communicate better with each other. Let’s pick up the phone and talk, and not e-mail. Let’s go see people when there are issues instead of e-mailing them.”

In this age of digital media dominating communication, it’s very easy to forget the value of that personal contact. Blue said he and assistant athletic director Tim Ford will ensure that they maintain a transparent relationship with everybody.

However, Blue also wants to establish a vertical program where the chain of command is clearly laid out and problems can be solved. Maybe some of that has been happening. But Blue wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t the case.

“There can be a huge disconnect if you don’t have the athletic coordinator, principal and athletic director working together and involved in the process,” said Abilene head football coach Steve Warren, under whom Blue served as offensive coordinator in Abilene from 2001-2005.

Warren said he recognized early he wouldn’t keep Blue for long.

“The biggest thing your AD has to be is a PR guy because you need everybody pulling in the same direction,” Warren said. “He’s a going to be there for the good of both Grapevine and Colleyville Heritage. He’ll want to build a family atmosphere. He’s a great communicator.”

Blue said one of the first things he wants to do is shift the athletic in-service days for coaches to July so they can spend more time preparing for their sport.

He’s not going to pretend to know all the answers. If he did, the GCISD made a mistake. Coaches and jobs shouldn’t feel under pressure. They should feel like someone has their back – something that’s been missing.

Plus, Blue will play an active role in hiring new coaches. That takes us to finding Dave Henigan’s replacement as Grapevine’s next head football coach.

Blue met with Grapevine principal Shannon Tovar last Friday to lay out the framework for the position. This isn’t going to be about hiring someone who runs a spread offense or has a defensive background.

“The things I feel strongly about are that this person has to move this campus forward,” Blue said. “When he has that and has great character, then the rest falls into place.”

The Grapevine hire notwithstanding, don’t expect major or groundbreaking moves within the first few months. Blue has to gain a full understanding of where the strengths and weaknesses reside. When identified, GCISD will finally have the direction it needs.

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