Weston Voices: Mike McGrath, Athletic Director
If you’ve been living under a rock, or perhaps just ignoring the pithy patois of the Weston Owl posts, you may not know that the Owl is an ardent fan of Weston athletics at all levels. From Little League to BAYS to Weston Soccer, Lacrosse and Football, you can’t avoid at least one Go ‘cats! a week. So here is my favorite Go Cats! of the season (so far) because it’s all about Mike McGrath, Weston Schools’ Fantastic Athletic Director (yes, actual title).
I met Mike first while volunteering on the Recreation Master Plan Steering Committtee for two years. At the time, my kids were in fifth grade and then on to the middle school so I was not a big part of the Proctor renovation decisions and other major high school athletics commentary. I always enjoyed the perspective of both Mike and Pete Foley, who is a former AD for the schools. Now that I am a high school “soccer mom” and not on the committee, I enjoy giving Mike my perspective while at the sidelines–which is why you often see his green Gator vehicle speeding off away from the field when he sees me hit the gate. Just kidding–Mike always listens and THEN speeds away.
So what does a School Athletic Director do? Well, besides being the number one fan of all things Weston ‘cats, the generic job description says: “The primary responsibility of an athletic director is to oversee all aspects of the athletic programs that are sponsored by a school or an institution. This includes the hiring of staff and coaches, ordering equipment for teams, promoting events, matches, and meets. Directors must be skilled in budgeting and allocating funds, and facilitating operations. The athletic director may also participate in fundraising for the teams and to providing guidance to the students in the sports program. Athletic Directors also supervise all sports personnel and resolving any administrative issues. In addition to scheduling games and events, the athletic director will collaborate with the coaching staff on scheduling game days and practices throughout the sports season, ensuring no scheduling conflict occurs between different teams for use of shared equipment like weight rooms and athletic trainers’ attention. Athletic directors must also keep track of policy changes from the school board and coordinate with organizations that set parameters within the field such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association. ” – source.
Which, you have to agree, is a lot of stuff, not to mention Mike answering my numerous emails. The Owl checks in with Mike pretty much every home game, and convinced him to answer the following questions:
Owl: You’ve been Athletic Director for Weston for 10 years now. How did you decide on this career?
MM: Working in athletics has been something I had always wanted to do. Growing up, my dad worked for the Red Sox and my brother and I were always in Fenway Park especially during the summer months. We knew every inch of Fenway and were very fortunate to be introduced at a very young age to sports at a professional level. We knew all the players and they knew us. From there it was sports and school and nothing else. My love for sports never wavered and I started my high school coaching career right here in Weston, initially as a junior varsity baseball coach before taking on the varsity position for 3 years. I met some great people here in Weston as a young varsity coach and many of the players I coached my first couple years are still in town and their children are now Wildcats. However, I went back to the private sector before eventually changing careers and focusing on education, something I felt I really enjoyed and wanted to be a part of going forward. I had still been coaching (mostly hockey at Natick & Mansfield) before deciding to explore the possibility of becoming an AD. Once I made that decision, it was full throttle ahead and I did everything I had to do to put myself in a place where I could pursue possible athletic director positions. I was fortunate to land my first AD position at Randolph High School before eventually making the move to Weston in 2011 [Owl: probably realizing that Wildcats are a much better mascot than Blue Devils. What are blue devils? Mystery].
Which sports did you play growing up?
I was lucky enough to have a great high school career in two sports (baseball & hockey) and go on to play baseball at Boston College. I am a member of the Watertown High School Hall of Fame for our hockey team which participated in the State Semi-Finals at the old Boston Garden and was the top-ranked team in Massachusetts at the time. Upon graduating I actually had an offer to coach baseball at BC as an assistant, but decided I needed to begin my life and took a job in the private sector. A few years later I began my coaching career here in Weston.
Which is your favorite Weston high school sport, where Soccer is the only correct answer?
I enjoy watching all the sports teams in Weston. I do not have a favorite sport to watch and I like seeing our teams compete at the highest level. Obviously I know the most about hockey and baseball which I played and coached, but I learn something new each and every time I watch a sport that I did not compete in or coach. We are very lucky to have outstanding student-athletes and coaches here who are so dedicated to their sport. It makes it fun to watch. There is not a bigger fan of Weston sports!
What are your favorite parts of the job? Least favorite?
I absolutely love my job. I tell everyone it’s the toughest job I have ever had, but the best job I have ever had. Some days it’s like trying to drink water out of a fire hose as things are happening at such a quick pace. However, I think that’s what I like most about it. Never are two days the exact same. I would say the part of my job that is the most challenging is when we have days that are forecasted to rain, but doesn’t, but then starts raining right before the end of school, but then stops… Trying to make decisions on whether or not to play a game on days like this can be very challenging at times.
What are the challenges for Weston as a small school?
Being the smallest school in the Dual County League is very challenging. There are only 3 schools which have fewer than a thousand students, with Weston the smallest at 640. The other two, Bedford and Wayland, are close to 900 each. That said, the remaining 8 schools range from 1500-2000 students apiece which is a significant difference. Typically we hold our own at the varsity level in most sports, but my concern is with our JV levels who many times are comprised of freshmen and sophomores who have to compete day in and day out against schools who have talented sophomores and juniors playing for thier teams. This is very challenging for us. On a positive note, being a small D3 school in a predominantly D1 league does help us if and when we reach the state playoffs. Our teams are always prepared and seasoned after playing against very good competition within the league.
What are some of the other challenges you face as an AD?
Finding coaches in recent years has become a very difficult process. Not just here in Weston, but state-wide. It seems many people who in years past would run through a wall to be a high school coach are just not out there anymore. I am not saying that our staff or anyone’s staff is compromised, because I believe we have an outstanding coaching staff who is 100% dedicated to the well-being of our student-athletes. However, when a position does become available recently there has been a limited pool of candidates. Again, this is something we all as ADs are experiencing as is most everyone else in every industry.
Thanks, Mike, for taking time out of your day to chat with the Owl. Now, dear readers, if you have a kid in sports in Weston, or wants to learn about a long-term career in sports, Mike is a great person to chat with. Even though he would not commit to soccer being his favorite sport, we all know that is true, and he will be on the sidelines for the ‘cats last remaining home game for the season against Boston Latin (a D1 school) at 4 pm today. He also has an email address which I will make you look up.