Chad Smothers achieved a career goal when he took over as Knightdale High’s athletic director in July, but the former Leesville Road football chief says it’s hard not to miss coaching at this time of year.
Smothers has good reason for such feelings. Last year at this time, he was preparing to lead The Pride to its third straight trip to the NCHSAA 4AA state football playoffs in his three-year run as head coach.
“It’s an exciting time of year,” Smothers said. “You work your whole off season and through the regular season to get to the playoffs. That’s the big payday for the kids and all the work they put in, giving them the opportunity to compete for a state championship.”
Despite his Leesville teams posting a combined record of 32-6 and being fixtures in the postseason brackets, Smothers stepped away from coaching with a sense of unfinished business.
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After watching 12-1 seasons in 2011 and 2012 end with losses to Garner in the third round of the playoffs, his 2013 crew finished 8-4 after a loss to Cap-8 rival Millbrook in the opening round.
“It was very, very tough,” he said. “We lost in the final minute to Wakefield, then lost in the final minute to Millbrook to end our season. There’s a lot of heartache left on the rack, so to speak, but there are opportunities that come up in the field and when opportunity knocks sometimes you have to answer on someone else’s terms.
“Getting into the administrative role was something I always wanted to do. When you weigh it all out, it was something very hard to turn down.”
The mental transition from coach to athletics director has been a day-to-day experience.
Smothers says he feels energized by the change in responsibilities. But the scenery hasn’t changed too much.
“You see some things that get your coaching juices going and make you want to step back in there, but I think I’m dealing with it pretty well,” Smothers said. “I like what I’m doing now. If I get the coaching itch, I might try to get back into that at some point.”
Smothers said it has been different to have to pay attention to several programs at one time in his role at Knightdale. He’s enjoyed attending away games the most, since the absence of housekeeping duties enables him to actually watch the games.
“When coaching football or baseball you tend to have blinders on about everyone else’s program,” he said. “It’s a different deal when you’re managing so many different sports and coaches with different personalities – trying to make sure everyone gets what they need to be successful.”
He’s been most surprised by the understanding he’s gained about what goes on behind the scenes to make games possible week-in and week-out.
“The production of a sporting event takes so much more than one person,” Smothers said. “People think you can play a game with two teams and referees, but it takes a whole lot more auxiliary personnel to get it done. I’m seeing that more than ever.”