Nelson Garner, the new athletics director at Parkwood High School, began his duties earlier this summer after replacing Lynn Coble, who took a step back from his position to focus solely on coaching the Rebel football team. This is Garner’s first stint as a high school athletics director.
Previously, he taught at Cuthbertson Middle from 2009-13 and served as the middle school athletics director in 2012 and 2013. Garner also coached the boys and girls soccer teams at Cuthbertson High School since the school opened in 2009. While at Cuthbertson, Garner led the girls soccer team to a state championship in 2011 in just its second year as a program and under Garner’s guidance the boys soccer team won the state championship in 2012.
Before his time at Cuthbertson, Garner coached soccer at Piedmont from 2006-09 and spent time teaching at Shiloh Elementary and Porter Ridge Elementary.
Union County Weekly sat down with Garner to discuss his new role as the Rebels’ athletics director.
Q: What led you to accept the athletics director position at Parkwood?
A: Being an AD was something that had been on my radar screen for a while. I love coaching and have been coaching in Union County for 10 years, but it felt like a good time in my life to step away from coaching for a while. I wanted to help oversee and encourage an entire athletics department, not just one team. I was ready for the challenge of trying something new and different and I was confident that my skills and experience as a coach could be used to help other coaches across the board. That was really appealing to me.
Q: You had an extremely successful coaching career at Cuthbertson. Will you continue coaching soccer at Parkwood?
A: I’ve decided to step away from coaching, at least for now. Being a first-year AD, I have a lot to learn. It’s in the best interest of everyone involved that I start by focusing just on my role as an AD. That’s why (coach Lynn) Coble stepped down. I felt the same way. The door to coaching isn’t closed, but for now I want to focus just on being a great AD.
I’m definitely missing (coaching) already. When you’re a coach, it’s in your blood. The interaction with the players is definitely something I’m missing at the moment, but I feel confident that I made the right decision. I’m hoping to find the ability to connect with athletes across the board and help encourage them, as well as the coaches, and be a resource to all the teams at Parkwood.
Q: As a first-time athletics director at the high school level, what are you most excited about?
A: I’m really looking forward to building relationships with the coaches here. I want to bring my experiences as a coach to help become an effective AD. I’ve never been an AD before, but I know the things that I wanted in my athletics director and I saw firsthand how their support allowed me to do my job better. I’m a big proponent of high school sports and I know how much coaches sacrifice and how little they get in return.
I love the ability to influence a kid’s life and help make a positive difference. I want to make it easier for coaches to be able to do that. I’m also really looking forward to getting to know the community out here and getting invested in it.
Q: What are your plans and expectations for your time at Parkwood?
A: Short term, I really just want to continue the work that’s already being done at Parkwood. The athletics department (at Parkwood) has made a turn since the opening of Cuthbertson five years ago. It took a bit of a hit because of redistricting. Since then, it’s turned around in a few years and the success of the football team last season certainly helped that. I’m looking to make a nice, smooth transition and not change anything too much but to keep heading in a positive direction. Coach Coble and the other coaches here continue to do a great job. Things are running smoothly and I want to help facilitate that.
Long term, there are definitely things that can be done to improve our facilities and recourses. Those things though, you have to prioritize and look at the big picture in order to take those steps. I do want to continue building the culture and developing the winning attitude. First and foremost, I want to help kids graduate high school and develop academically.
Q: What’s your approach and style when it comes to being an effective athletics director?
A: I’m part of the team. I’m not anybody’s boss. I’m a member and part of the team. I’m someone that coaches and athletes alike can come to for support, whether it’s regarding needs for a specific team or providing advice for coaches.
In 10 years, I’ve learned so much about that. One of the best things you can do as an athletics director is be supportive of your coaches and that applies to every sport. I also want to be supportive of young coaches. I know what it’s like to be a young coach and try to find your way within a system. I want to come in and help those coaches, much like young teachers need mentors from older, more experienced teachers. That’s my style – to be part of a team and then obviously provide whatever coaches and athletes need to be their most successful.