The Daily News checks in with Fort Walton Beach principal John Spolski to see how the search for a new football coach and athletic director is shaping up.
FORT WALTON BEACH — For the third time in six years, the search is on for a new football coach at Fort Walton Beach High School.
Phil Dorn, the Vikings current athletic director, announced he was stepping down from the position this past December to care for his wife, Lee Ann, who was injured in a boating accident this past May in Destin and spent several days in intensive care.
BREAKING: @FWBHS_Football coach @coachpkd has stepped down from his position as head football coach, citing family reasons.
He will continue as the school’s athletic director through the end school year.https://t.co/0I5CJDv8wO
Although Dorn will continue in his role as athletic director until his contract expires in June, Vikings Principal John Spolski has been left the unenviable task of finding someone new to fill the void.
The Daily News checked in with Spolski this week to see how the search is shaping up:
I know Dorn didn’t make his announcement that long ago, but where are you guys at in the process right now?
Right now I’m just kinda working on my timeline. Getting in to January and February here, we’ll go to the board and ask them to approve us hiring someone ’cause coach Dorn’s contract goes until June. We’ll go to the board and ask for permission, and we’ll follow the process, form a selection committee and go through the search for our new football coach.
That’s interesting. I didn’t realize you had to petition the school board to start your search once the previous guy announces he’s stepping away.
Here’s the funny thing: In the Panhandle of Florida and south and central Florida, word travels pretty fast through the Florida High School Activities Association. We haven’t even advertised the position yet, and I’ve already had a bunch of people send me résumés and bios and letters of interest that says, ‘Hey, when you guys open up the position, then we’re interested. We’d like to sit in and be considered for an interview.’
With any teacher or secretary or administrator on a yearly contract — you know we have them on contract until the end of June. Before I just open up a position that obviously has benefits and salary attached to it, we’ve got to work through HR and our board to make sure they’re OK with it.
Ideally, what’s the timeline that you’d like to have all this sorted out by?
We want to have our new guy in place by March. Spring here is into late May and June. The kids are anxious, and we want to make sure our program is off to a solid start. You know right now in the offseason and summer there’s a lot of thing going on in terms of staffing and in terms of out-of-season training.
What are you looking for in a coach and athletic director? What sort of qualities are you seeking?
Obviously they’ve gotta be high-energy, but here at Fort Walton Beach High School we need to make sure we have someone who’s plugged in to our athletes, our students. That’s really important. We wanna make sure that we have someone who can lead us to a competitive program. The neat thing is our young people wanna have access to a head football coach that will inspire them and help them achieve greatness both on and off the field.
We’re gonna miss Phil because when he came in here — our program’s a lot better off now than when he came in here. We were able to get three victories this year, and there’s a lotta things he did to our program to help us. He’s been here four seasons now but we’re just moving on, and the whole thing I’m committed to is — being the principal, I’ve got to accept the responsibility to move forward and ensure that our young student athletes have the right football coach in place.
How will you assemble your hiring committee?
I’ve got a little bit of experience in terms of forming those committees and having some community representatives on there and have instructional people from the school, but I’m sure the list of folks that will interview will be from within our campus now and also external candidates because coaching football in Okaloosa County is a big deal. There’s a lot of people that are interested in coaching for our five football teams here in our county.
You mentioned you’ve already gotten some interest. How many people have reached out?
I’d say, total, probably about a dozen or so, and we haven’t even advertised the position. The last time we did this, we had 84 people apply, and the time before this, we had well over 150 apply.
Sounds like you’ll have your work cut out for you.
Yeah, we’ll cull it down and look for specific things. We’ll talk to the team, too. You know, what are they looking for from their next coach? That’s so important because those adults out there, whether it’s football, it’s soccer, it’s basketball or lacrosse or track or swimming, it doesn’t matter. Those young people want to play for people that get excited about the game and make ’em better each week. They know when you bring someone in who has expert knowledge of a particular sport and then can position them or teach them to get a little better each week. I think that’s so critical.