I was walking across a large parking lot at Eastview High School on Tuesday evening – going from a volleyball match in the gym to a soccer game in the stadium -- when a minivan pulled up beside me. The friendly driver said, “Hey John, you want a ride?” Matt Percival, the athletic director at Eastview in Apple Valley, was on the move again.
Eastview’s fifth-year athletic director is typical of the people who hold these important positions. Athletic and activity directors work long days, juggle multiple tasks and do much of their work behind the scenes. The public does not often realize what must take place before a game begins, but athletic directors certainly do. And Percival, like his colleagues, knows that athletic directors can’t do it all alone.
“The key without a doubt is having all the other people who help out. If you end up being the one person, it’s impossible,” he said. “You rely on lots of folks.”
When Percival gave me a lift, it was just part of his typical workday. His alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. and many days he does not return home until 9:30 p.m. or later. His wife, Robin Percival, is the principal at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, and they have two daughters; Katie is in second grade and Emily is in kindergarten.
Emily had a soccer game Tuesday evening, and she and Katie were buckled into their car seats when I hitched a ride across the parking lot. Matt had taken a one-hour respite from his Eastview duties to coach at Emily’s game.
Percival (pictured at right) spends 30 minutes every morning working out on an elliptical machine in his basement while watching SportsCenter on ESPN. “That 30 minutes of quiet time by myself is a pretty good thing,” he said.
Before arriving at Eastview around 7 a.m., “We get the kids up and going, walk the dog and drop the kids off at school. One big milestone for us is having both kids in the same school this year. That’s a huge accomplishment. This is a breeze right now.”
Every day as an athletic director is interesting, but Monday had been particularly trying because all email and telephone systems at Eastview – as well as at all schools in District 196, which includes Apple Valley, Eagan and Rosemount high schools – were down all day. Cutting off communication makes an administrator’s job even tougher.
Percival, 39, has been at Eastview since the school opened in 1997. He taught social studies and is a former softball and hockey coach. I asked him to describe what Tuesday was like for him, and it was a whirlwind of decisions and action…
“Any time we have home events Joan (his administrative assistant, Joan Beckmann) and I spend some time making sure we have workers for everything. The assigners from the officials associations help us so much, and we become assigners when it comes to event workers. This morning we were trying to find and recruit some folks. Without a doubt, the part of this job I enjoy most is the people.”
Eastview girls tennis coach Jeff Olsen had received some bad news from his doctor on Monday, and he had to step away from coaching temporarily. “The doctor’s instruction was to eliminate anything that may cause stress,” Percival said. So he had to make sure an assistant tennis coach would take over.
Tuesday’s schedule was packed with home events against teams from Bloomington Jefferson: Girls tennis at 3:30, girls soccer at 5, and volleyball and boys soccer at 7. But Percival is also an assistant principal, working with social studies, physical education and business staff.
“This morning I did some classroom walkthroughs and observations,” he said. “I was probably in and out of 10 classrooms this morning, and I spent time chatting with teachers and kids.”
Before lunch he looked at his emails – some of which had been sent a day earlier when the system was down – and then spent a little more than an hour monitoring the lunchroom. “That’s a good time talking to lots of kids,” he said.
He was interviewed about sportsmanship by students who work on a school television program and met with a few student-athletes who were, as he put it, “not meeting all expectations.”
He was on the tennis courts before the matches against Jefferson began, drove home to meet his kids when they got off the school bus and brought them back to Eastview. He checked in with the girls soccer teams and officials at 4:30 to make sure everything was ready for their 5 o’clock game.
Shortly before 6 p.m., Percival and his daughters drove to Emily’s soccer game. Once the game was finished and snacks were handed to the kids, it was back to Eastview. Former Eastview AD Bruce Miller, now an assistant principal, helped keep an eye on things while Percival was away.
Percival spent most of the evening at the boys soccer game, but checked in on the volleyball match during its late stages. After it ended and the gym was clearing, he headed back to the stadium for the second half of boys soccer. He guessed that by 9:30 – barring overtimes and other unforeseen consequences – the stadium would be quiet.
“We’ll lock it up, shut off the lights and do it again tomorrow.”
While Matt was tending to his duties, Robin was going to a second-grade open house at the kids’ school and attending a 7 p.m. meeting at Henry Sibley.
“And sooner or later we’ll see each other, have dinner, get the kids tucked in and get some sleep,” Matt said.
Monday night, Matt’s dinner was from Jimmy John’s and Robin brought home food from Chipotle.
And today, just like every other day for every athletic director in the state, they’re doing it all over again.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 28
*Miles John has driven: 1,615
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