By Dan Guttenplan
---- — BYFIELD — In hopes of ushering in a new era of Triton Regional High athletics, Superintendent Christopher Farmer announced yesterday he hired a new full-time district athletic director in Sean McInnis.
McInnis takes over for Donna Andersen, who filled the role on a part-time basis for four years. Andersen received a stipend for serving as athletic director in addition to collecting salaries for her full-time position as physical education teacher and season position of varsity field hockey coach.
Andersen did not apply for the position of full-time athletic director, according to Farmer.
McInnis, a resident of Norfolk, has served as the director of Budgeting and Financial Reporting at UMass Boston for the past seven years. He has also served as a varsity basketball coach at various schools over the last 20 years, including Wakefield High, Weston High and King Philip Regional High. McInnis was named Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association Boys Basketball Coach of the Year in 2010-11 and MIAA Division 3 Girls Basketball Coach of the Year in 2007-08.
“My family is coming up with a transition plan to make sure we’re closer to Triton,” McInnis said. “I want to make sure I spend as much time in the community as possible. I want to be active in the lowest possible level of Triton athletics to the highest possible level. I want people to be able to get in touch with me.”
Farmer stressed that the primary role of the district athletic director will be to provide more support to coaches. The superintendent did acknowledge that he hopes McInnis’ hire will lead to more success for Triton teams in competition.
“We feel our coaches deserve more support,” Farmer said. “Clearly, part of this is about achieving excellence in competition. Certainly it’s important that our teams are successful. We attach a lot into the personal development of our student-athletes. We want to improve the liaison with our feeder programs. We want to provide increasing opportunities to middle school athletes to be involved in athletics.”
Farmer’s hope for McInnis is that the athletic director will also play a role in managing a refurbished stadium, once the $2.5 million fundraising effort in complete. Triton’s current stadium was built in the late 1960s and is in need of renovation.
Overall, Triton athletic teams have had marginal success in the Cape Ann League over the last five years. The school’s wrestling and girls track programs have collected state championships during that time period, but other programs, such as girls and boys soccer, field hockey, football and girls basketball have consistently struggled.
Turnover among athletic directors and coaches has been part of the problem. McInnis will be the fifth person to serve as the Triton athletic director in the last eight years. The inconsistency in leadership has also caused some instability in the coaching ranks.
In four seasons from 2009 to 2012, the head football coach changed three times. In 2007, the Triton athletic director at the time, Dave Dempsey, chose not to rehire hockey coach Drew Wile after the coach had a difference of opinion with a parent of a player. For the next three seasons, the Triton hockey program steadily declined, concluding with a 2-17-1 record in 2009-10. After Andersen took over as athletic director, she rehired Wile, and the Vikings have made the state tournament — and won one Cape Ann League championship — in the three years since.
“Stability is the most important thing,” McInnis said. “It’s important not only for the coaches, but the student-athletes. We need to create a community with stability and a tradition of playing for the same coaches at the high school level. I’ve been lucky enough to play for coaches who were there for the long haul. They were vested. That’s what makes for a better experience.”
Participation numbers in some sports, most notably indoor and outdoor track, have declined in recent years at Triton. McInnis said he will try to generate enthusiasm for the high school programs at the elementary and middle school levels.
“They have such good coaches up there,” McInnis said. “We want people to understand the coaching that Triton provides. We want to get people in the higher levels of school to participate, but we also want to help the younger student-athletes feel a part of the program. I’m hoping to build off the great work of the previous athletic directors to establish a tradition.”
The Triton athletic director’s contract with run 210 days each calendar year. Farmer said he expects McInnis to begin July 1.