From playing the game to leading the game
Parks and Recreation Professionals,
After graduating from Mars Hill University, I had one goal: to become a member of a professional parks and recreation agency. After a month of interviewing, hard work and determination in finding the right fit for me, I accepted the Athletic Coordinator position with Aberdeen Parks and Recreation. It wasn’t long after being in Parks and Recreation that I decided I wanted to be a Parks and Recreation Director one day. With new career goals set, I took every advantage to learn the ins and outs of the Parks and Recreation field. I took leadership roles in the State Wide Athletics Committee (SWAC) and the NCRPA Athletics Directors Workshop (ADW). I worked closely with Aberdeen's Parks and Recreation Director to see what goes on outside of athletics.
I attended sessions at NCRPA State Conference and ADW that directly correlated with my goal of being a Parks and Recreation Director. It was at these conferences where I heard this statement that stuck with me “You may have to go out, to go up.” Meaning I may have to leave Aberdeen to reach my goal of becoming a Parks and Recreation Director. I knew that was going to be tough, but if I ever wanted to accomplish my career goals, I had to be okay with this possibility.
With excitement, I can say that I am now the Siler City Parks and Recreation Director. This new career path has its ups and downs though. I can tell you that it can be lonely at the top. I learned quickly that I’m not going to be everyone’s friend or make everyone happy. I am now the one who makes the big decisions that have multiple impacts. I am the one that is looked to for guidance. My phone rings every weekend and late at night with questions and concerns. I must be accessible 24 hours a day/ 7 days week, where before this wasn’t always the case.
As an Athletic Coordinator, my primary focus was athletics. It was structured and ran like a well-oiled machine. As Parks and Recreation Director, my main focus is everything. I can’t focus on one aspect and allow others to fall by the way side. With athletics, I dealt primarily with a core group. Now I find myself in meetings and conversations with all different types of groups - all with different primary focus points. This career move was a huge jump in responsibility. I feel that this career move has matured me, not only as a park and recreation professional but as an individual.
My advice for any parks and recreation professionals that may have a career goal of becoming a Parks and Recreation Director is to lean heavily on your supervisor. Let them know your career goals and ask them if you can take part in some of their day-to-day operations. This will let you really see what being a Parks and Recreation Director is all about. Attend conferences and learn as much as you can. Be okay with the statement “You may have to go out, to go up.” If you can do all these things and feel good about, it then GO FOR IT!!
Meet the Author
Joseph Keel was recruited in 2006 to Mars Hill University, where he became an everyday right-handed reliever out of the bullpen. He received his degree in Parks and Recreation Administration with a Minor in Business Administration in 2010. He graduated with a 3.5 GPA. After graduating, Joseph returned to the Carolina Mudcats, where he completed his internship the previous year. In July 2010, he took the Athletic Coordinator position for the Town of Aberdeen. Joseph was awarded the Young Professional Award by the NCRPA on September 15, 2016 at the Athletic Directors Workshop. In February 2017, Joseph accepted the Director of Parks and Recreation position with the Town of Siler City. Joseph enjoys playing golf, spending time at the beach, helping others and serving his church.
Joseph can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 742-2699
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