May 4—The challenges presented to high school athletics over the past 14 months due to COVID-19 have been immense.
Madison athletic director John Dragas managed the constant obstacles at a high level and earned Athletic Director of the Year honors by the Northeast Ohio Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.
"My wife, she always puts things in perspective and she said, 'You do a good job, and it is really great that somebody's recognized you for what you do,'" Dragas said. "People don't say thank you and they don't say, 'Hey, good job.' I always took it as if nobody complains, I've done my job, and that's kind of my thank you. As I'm getting a little further away from the news, it's a little bit easier to sort of appreciate the award itself."
Like his athletic director peers, Dragas juggled the uncertainty and eventual cancelation of the 2020 spring season followed by the question marks surrounding fall sports conditioning in the summer.
"We just had a conference AD meeting, and the first vote was: Who's ready for 2021 to be done?" Dragas said. "That's kind of where all the athletic directors are at. It's been Groundhog Day because you plan for stuff, and then COVID shuts you down. We actually planned a baseball, softball and track season last year because we weren't sure if this shut down was just going to last two weeks or not."
Some of the most rewarding aspects from the past year for him were the fact each Madison sport competed through the end of its season, and being able to watch his sons, Dimitri and JP, play for the Blue Streaks basketball team.
"Having enough of a season to see my two sons play with each other on the varsity team, I caught myself not being an AD quite a bit and being a dad, which was really nice," Dragas said.
Dragas began serving as assistant athletic director to Jim Pinelli 14 years ago and took over as athletic director in 2010. Over that stretch, Dragas learned time management is one of the most important parts of his job.
Whether it's fixing a broken chain on the first down markers right before a football game, tracking down ticket booth personnel to make them aware of a late media credential to add to the attendance list or the popcorn machine blowing a fuse, all of those problems fall on Dragas.
"Being very organized as far out in advance gives you the opportunity to put out those fires and not totally be stressed out on game day," Dragas said.
Dragas points to his family, coworkers and the community as key pieces to the success he's had as an athletic director.
"To a degree it takes a village," Dragas said. "I have my secretary who helps, and of course if you ask any one of my boys, they can take my key ring and probably tell you what lock each key opens because I have three boys and they're all athletic and they all played sports so they all helped me through it. My wife sells tickets on a Friday night for football.
"It's been a family affair a little bit as well as everybody at Madison schools helping out too. I guess it's my award, but we all know it's not just me."