Annette Gonzales takes over as SM North athletic director
Attending the Shawnee Mission North faculty retreat Thursday and Friday was nothing new for Annette Gonzales, but the long-time associate principal went to it this time with a different job title.
If what Gonzales did at the end of the first day of the retreat was any indication of how she’ll adjust to her new role at North, she should adapt to it just fine. After growing up in a family that was heavily involved in sports, it was no surprise that the Indians’ new athletic director went to the United States Women’s National Team’s 4-2 win over Japan on Thursday at Children’s Mercy Park shortly after Day 1 of the SM North faculty retreat came to a close.
“I’m super excited. Obviously it’s a new challenge and a different role,” Gonzales said. “That’s the exciting part, right? Organized chaos is how PE used to be.”
“There’s always organized chaos in athletics as well. There’s just so many different facets. Obviously I’ve always respected our athletic directors, but I now have a newfound respect for them and the challenges that they face daily.”
Gonzales’ time as an associate principal still had her attending several SM North athletic events, so there are a few day-to-day tasks that won’t change for her. While Gonzales is looking forward to attend more sporting events this school year, one of the aspects of being an athletic director that she is excited about most won’t occur on the playing field.
“One of my goals is to visit with our student athletes every day. I want to make sure that I’m calling some students into the office and visiting with them and checking with them and seeing if there are some things that we can be doing differently and just to check on them with their goals, their expectations, how their practices are going and just any way I can assist them,” Gonzales said. “Like I said, there’s so many facets. I think I’ll be OK with the game day management since we have so many people around that know what they’re doing that are a part of that.”
Two of those people Gonzales was alluding to that have prior experience with game day management are SM North’s previous two athletic directors — Kent Glaser and David Ewers. With first-year principal Jeremy Higgins also having prior experience as a coach and athletic director being added to the mix, Gonzales said she couldn’t ask for a much better situation to be stepping in to.
“With all of those gentlemen in my life and having played a pivotal role in my life as professional, colleagues and as friends, I will say it is comforting to know that they’re there. They can support me,” Gonzales said. “They can assist me. I don’t necessarily have to go to my colleagues as my sister schools, but I can. That’s another thing that’s been so great. The SMSD ADs, any questions I’ve had they’ve answered relatively quickly.”
Making the transition from associate principal to athletic director will also give Gonzales an opportunity to work with one of her former SM North colleagues in SMSD athletic director Richard Kramer, who spent nine years as SMN’s principal.
“He’s been a great mentor to me over the years,” said Gonzales of Kramer. “I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Working as an administrator at SM North has given Gonzales a good glimpse at some of the behind-the-scenes work of athletic secretary Tammy Rettig. Gonzales made sure to note that any high praise that she receives should go to Rettig as well.
“I don’t want to leave out the fact that Tammy Rettig has been at North for 20-plus years,” Gonzales said. “You cannot minimize the impact that an athletic director’s secretary has because they know a lot. I’m glad she’s there and I’ll be glad to be around her as well.”
Between the likes of Rettig, Higgins, Ewers, Glaser and SM North’s coaches and student- athletes, Gonzales said she views Indians athletics as one big team. Gonzales has been in a team atmosphere her whole life.
“My parents worked their tails off. My brothers and sisters have all been great role models,” Gonzales said. “Sports have always provided an opportunity for me to do some many things — to battle, to compete, get a college scholarship. Those are things I want to help our student-athletes with and for our kids to have those same opportunities, if possible.”
Even with having several family members, co-workers and friends to go to for support, Gonzales knows that there will likely be a little bit of a learning curve. Gonzales is welcoming the challenges so that she can learn from them and help SM North athletics blossom.
“I just look at those as growth opportunities and learning opportunities,” Gonzales said. “That’s just life and that’s what makes life fun. That’s how I perceive it.”
While Gonzales is excited about the fall sports season that is quickly approaching, the summer has already put her to work with hiring to new head coaches last week in Martina Mihailovic (girls basketball) and Shane McBride (baseball). Gonzales feels good about the future of SM North athletics as a whole between Mihailovic, McBride and Zach Rampy (football) as first-year head coaches and having the likes of state-championship coaches Aaron Davidson (girls cross country in 2017) and Steve Stitzer (boys basketball in 2016) and other coaches with winning pedigrees.
“We have a strong staff. We have some coaches that obviously have a lot of experience and we have some that are coming on board,” Gonzales said. “I’m just super excited to serve in a different role and collaborate and elevate our programs. You know that in high school that it’s not necessarily wins and losses, but building a program and having an impact on kids and building those relationships.”