Athletics and sports play a major role in many high schools and colleges. Healthy mind in a healthy body as they say, and it definitely makes sense to promote these activities, making sure that students can pursue their sporting ambitions at high school or college, and potentially represent the colors of the school on local, national, or even on international level. Working as an athletic director, you will oversee and coordinate all aspects of athletic activities at a school. And while this isn’t a fancy job title, you will typically compete with two to four other candidates for the job, and should prepare for your interview in advance.

Let’s have a look at the questions you may face. The hiring committee (typically consisting of school principal, couple of other administrators, and often also a superintendent from the district) will inquire about your motivation, vision for the athletic activities at school, experience, and attitude to various situations and challenges you may face while trying to make sure that both coaches and students thrive, and achieve great results for the school. Let’s move to the questions.


Why do you want to work as an athletic director?

You should touch two points in your answer. The first one–the more important, is your desire to make something happen with the athletic activities at their school. You’ve been around for the while, you know the team, the coaches, the players, the facilities. You have an idea how to make things better, how to get to the next level–whatever it means in the context of the given school. You’ll get a chance to elaborate on these things later in the interview. At this point, it is enough showing the passion and desire to achieve something for them.

The second thing are your skills, experience, and expectations. You can say that with everything you’ve done over the years around athletics (coaching, teaching, playing), you feel ready to oversee the entire operation. What’s more, you believe to have the leadership and organizational skills. And, of course, you also seek professional recognition, and ability to have a bigger impact. Regardless of the job you’ve had up to this point, position of an athletic director will allow you to follow your ambitions.

* May also interest you: Why do you want to work for our school district? 7 sample answers.


What do you know about athletic activities at our school?

It is absolutely pivotal to do a good research. Of course, if you’ve been working as a PE teacher, or had another role in the department, you may know everything already. Even in that case, you should write down principal strengths and weaknesses of the department.

Then you should talk about them in the interview, specifying key areas for improvement. It can be anything from better budgeting and funds allocation and hiring new coaches, to focusing on promotion and attracting more students to the sports. This changes from one place to another, and you’ll have to do your research to find out.

What vision do you have for athletic activities at our school?

You have a couple of options for a really good answer here. First one is breaking it down to individual sports, such as basketball, baseball, track and field, swimming, soccer, etc, and presenting a simple vision for each one.

Perhaps the track and field team needs a new coach, or a renovation of the track. Or the soccer team doesn’t have enough members and you want to focus on attracting more students to the sport. And maybe they even do not have a swimming squad at school, but you want to change it. You can talk also about results you want the teams to achieve, such as progressing to a better division, winning some titles, etc.

Another good option is summarizing your vision to one powerful sentence. For example, you can say that you hope to foster an environment where both coaches and students thrive, having excellent facilities at their disposal, and possibilities to fully develop their potential and reach new heights. Of course this is just an example, and I am sure you can formulate it better than me…


How do you imagine a typical day at work as our athletic director?

You will need to do some research here as well, because it depends on the size of school and scope of the athletic activities. In many cases, athletic directors teach as well, not a full schedule, but for example 10-15 hours each week. It is important to show realistic expectations, so you should find out whether you may teach or not.

Another important thing is to show proactive and personal approach to work. Tell them that you imagine spending a lot of time with the coaches, with the athletes, taking part in events, observing trainings, inspecting the facilities, discussing issues with people responsible for them, and so on. Without a doubt you’ll have a lot of paperwork as well, and will spend some time sitting at your desk, writing emails, reports, working on budgets, and so on. Show them that you see the complexity of the role, and feel ready for everything it encompasses.

* May also interest you: Sports administrator interview questions.


Tell us about a time when you demonstrated leadership

At the end of the day, athletic director is a leadership position. When it comes to important decisions (such as budget allocation, hiring or firing a coach, signing up a sponsor, etc), you will have the final word. This is something you may not have to be used to, especially if you progress to the position from a teaching role.

Anyway, share with them a situation when you made an important decision–perhaps even an unpopular one. You can also talk about a situation when you inspired someone with your words, and motivated them to reach new heights. Or when you came up with an innovative idea, for the class, sports club, or anything else.

The key is to demonstrate that you do not struggle to take responsibility into your hands, and take action, without waiting for someone else to tell you what you should do.


Other questions you may face in your athletic director job interview

  • Tell us about your experience with hiring staff members, such as coaches or physios. How would you make sure to get the best people onboard?
  • We face this challenge now in you basketball team (they explain the challenge in the team). In your opinion, what should we do to address it?
  • What are your strategies when it comes to promoting athletic activities and events at school?
  • What are your expectations on other administrators, teachers, and the cooperation you want to have with them?
  • How do you imagine your role when it comes to referees, league officials, and other external bodies that play some role in the athletic activities at school?
  • In your opinion, what role does administrative work play in the job of an athletic director?
  • Describe a time when you faced ethical dilemma at work.
  • We have several good applicants for this position, including you. What can you offer us that others cannot?


Final thoughts, next steps

Interview for a job of an athletic director belongs to interviews with in average difficulty. More often than not, questions of the hiring committee make a lot of sense, and will actually help them choose the best candidate for the job–which isn’t necessarily the case with all job interviews in education.

If you want to be that candidate, you should first and foremost do an excellent research about the school and their athletic activities before the interview. Identify their strengths and weaknesses, and prepare a vision of how things will improve under your leadership, for everyone involved.

Last but not least, try to prepare at least a short answer to all questions from this article, and check also other online sources. I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck!


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Glen Hughins
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