The 2018-19 school year is quickly approaching, and that means Peninsula High School athletic director and head football coach Ross Filkins is about to become busy.
Football practices begins Aug. 15 and the Seahawks kick off their season on Aug. 31 at O’Dea. I recently caught up with Filkins to talk about his handling of the dual responsibilities of AD and coach, the state of the Seahawks’ athletic program and the transition to the South Sound Conference.
JM: It’s your fourth year as the Peninsula High School Athletic Director. How much do you feel you’ve settled into that job now?
RF: I actually sought the advice of several AD’s before taking it on. They all said it’s about a three year process of understanding what job entails. Year three, I feel like it went a lot better.
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JM: Has anything about the AD position surprised you, or proved more challenging than you originally anticipated?
RF: The biggest thing, after 20 years in classroom, I miss that connection, working directly with students. The thing about that setting, when a lesson goes well, or it goes poorly, it’s often largely under your control. With the AD position, the thing that was most surprising is the lack of control sometimes. I’m at the mercy of other people. I’m a big list person. I have daily goals. It’s one of those jobs where you can just never get quite everything done that you want to in a day. Typically, you’re just one phone call or email away from being buried the next two weeks.
JM: Being the athletic director and the head football coach sounds challenging. How much of a time commitment is that, especially during the fall, and what’s been the trick to balancing both duties?
RF: It’s been really good. I talked to several AD’s that are also coaches and they gave me some really good advice. Throughout both fall and winter, it’s still about 70 hours a week. The fall and winter are the busiest with supervision, things that happen and come up. It’s a lot of time. The football part is interesting. For my first 20 years, I always told kids, ‘When you get out to practice, you can have a bad day, fail a science test, whatever, but that 2 1/2 hours on the field is your sanctuary.’ Now, coming up on my fourth year, I learned that time I get directly with student athletes really is my sanctuary. I miss having kids in class. To work directly with student athletes, that’s really the best part of my day.
JM: The football program has been good for a long time at Peninsula, but I’ve been impressed with some of the other programs in the past few years. The boys and girls soccer teams have grown into contenders, and the basketball teams are strong, to name a few. How do you feel about the competitiveness across the board, compared to when you first took over?
RF: I’m glad you noticed that. I feel the same way. I knew what I was getting into with this position. I did it because I felt like I could help. I do feel like I’m helping. I’m inspired by the growth of our programs and the commitment of student-athletes and coaches, all the way through our 24 varsity programs. Many of our programs now have become consistent winners. Girls basketball was in a really tough place. They’ve become a very strong program and are poised to have a great year. Boys hoops is very consistent now. Volleyball, under Katrina Cardinal, she’s doing great things. That’s a program that’s stocked with a lot of young talent. We’ve experienced a lot of growth. Last year, we set records for participation; we had a tremendous turnout. We had over 140 kids out for track and field, which is amazing. I feel like we’re growing, the best is still yet to come. Last year, we came in second in SSC all-sports standings, which is pretty good, considering we have lower enrollment than most of the South Sound Conference.
JM: What do you attribute that growth and success to?
RF: (Principal) Dave Goodwin has built a really positive and supportive school culture. Peninsula is a place a lot of people want to be. Both through academics and with athletics, it really reflects that mindset and vision. I think it starts right there. It’s also has come down to a buy-in and commitment to hard work. Greatness does not come easy. It’s a competitive and challenging, year in and year out. Our student athletes have worked really hard.
JM: I spoke with Gig Harbor High School athletic director Bob Werner last week about the South Sound Conference. He’s been really happy with the league. From a Peninsula perspective, what are your thoughts on being part of this league?
RF: I think it’s great. It’s such an interesting process. We’ve been part of the creation of new leagues. It’s a lot of work. It’s tough. I’m thankful for my first year, being in the SPSL, being able to work with some great people. Starting a new league from scratch was a first for me. That was very interesting and a great part of my education. I think it’s a good league. The communities are very similar. There is quite a bit of travel, but in terms of the competitive balance, being able to field programs at the sub-varsity level, it’s a really good fit.
JM: The biggest bonus for Gig Harbor was being able to play in the same league as Peninsula. I would imagine you share that sentiment, as well.
RF: I think it makes scheduling much easier. Previously, we had to set aside non-league contests. I think we were pretty successful doing that in the major programs. Getting things into the league schedule makes it easier. We’re at a point now, where we’re focused on winning in the postseason.
JM: All your programs will be sporting Adidas gear soon, the football team has an exciting schedule, you have a lot of programs that are legitimate contenders — what are you most excited for with the upcoming school year?
RF: I think I’m just excited to get back onto campus. The school, it’s just so positive and fun and inclusive. Everybody has had a good summer but we’re ready to get back to it. I’m just looking forward to seeing everyone, getting ready to compete and support our programs.