BY DEAN HOCKNEY
(This story appears in the August 30 edition of the Sports Journal.)
Kokomo High School has a history of long-standing and successful athletic directors. From 1972 through June, only four men had the distinction of leading one of the most successful high school athletic programs in Indiana. But with the start of this school year, Jason Snyder added his name to the list that includes Bob Hamilton (1972-1984), Ron Barsh (1984-1987), Jim Callane (1987-2005) and Mike Wade (2005-2011).
“The athletic directors that have come through Kokomo and Haworth have been influential on my life, going back to when Mr. (John) Bingaman was at Haworth and Mr. Barsh was at Kokomo,” said Snyder. “We have had so many great athletic directors; I only hope I can continue to develop the program. There is a reason that Kokomo has been good for so many years. For instance, we just had our golf outing and Mr. Barsh, Mr. Wade and Mr. Callane were there supporting the athletic program. I have big shoes to fill but some great people to help me along. I look forward to growing it.”
But not since Hamilton has a Wildkat athletic director attempted to do what Snyder will this year – coach a major sport at the same time. Yes, Snyder will remain as the girls basketball coach.
“I will lean on a lot of people, and I have an outstanding coaching staff that has been around the program for the last six years,” said Snyder. “This is a dedicated group of coaches and they know I will put my time in. The first year will be the toughest, but it is something I want to do. I really like coaching the girls and am not ready to give it up.
Snyder’s girls basketball coaching staff consists of Lisa Pflueger, Jay Karp, Troy White, Jesse Dunn, Daro Johnson, Josh McFarland and Russell Dance. He is 67-38 as the chief Lady Kat, a position he has held since Howard County Sports Hall of Fame member Charlie Hall retired from coaching in 2006.
The new athletic director also pointed out that he talked to several people before making the decision to serve in both a coaching and administrative position.
“I talked to other AD/coaches and they said it could be done,” said Snyder, who graduated from Indiana University in 2000 with a degree in kinesiology. “Plus I have guys like (sports information director) Terry Downham and (ticket manager) Mark Shorter; they help the department and are a big help to me and will allow me to do both.”
Snyder won’t be the only AD in the state who serves as a Class 4A basketball coach. J.R. Holmes is the athletic director at Bloomington South as well as the boys basketball coach – and most Kat fans remember what his squad did to the Red and Blue last March.
Snyder may be the busiest employee in the Kokomo school system. Not only is he athletic director and head girls hoops coach, but he is still the boys varsity golf coach. Until that decision is made, he is excited about the athletic director’s position, wearing multiple hats, and what the first month has brought.
“The transition was made easier by the great staff I have in (assistant athletic director) Dick Christie and (athletic secretary) Jennie Truman,” said Snyder while sitting in an office he hasn’t had time to personalize yet. “We are busy and I am really just excited about the start of the school year and the fun atmosphere that our teams get to play in, such as football at Lucas Oil Stadium, soccer in Bloomington at the IU Cup and boys basketball in the Hall of Fame Classic and Old School Sectional. But Jennie and Mr. Christie have been awesome, and it is nice to have Mike Wade still in the school system (Wade accepted a position as the school corporation’s director of human resources and operations). I am surprised he is still taking my phone calls. It has been a great start.”
The new AD also points to a coaching staff that he is looking forward to working with. Snyder said the staff is one of the best in the state.
“We have built a solid group, a solid coaching staff at Kokomo,” said Snyder. “They have some amazing programs and we as coaches continuously help each other. It is a family atmosphere.”
Snyder is the first Kokomo alumnus to serve as athletic director in decades, something that is not lost on the 1995 graduate.
“I am very fortunate to have the background I have in Kokomo athletics as a player, coach and teacher,” said Snyder. “And both of my parents are teachers in Kokomo, so we really just love the school and athletics. I love Kokomo sports and Kokomo High School. I am very fortunate to be involved.”
Looking into the future, Snyder said he wants to place an emphasis on getting the Wildkat student-athletes into the community, showing the positives of the school and the athletic program.
“I would really like to get into the community and do some community service projects,” said Snyder. “I think each team could do a volunteer activity, such as our cross country team working with the youth triathlon this year. It is a great experience, and I think our student-athletes like to be involved. It is something I plan on doing very soon. It lets the community see what great student-athletes we have. They are great ambassadors for the school.”
Snyder also mentioned his wife of nine years and the support she has shown, not only to him, but to the entire athletic program at KHS.
"My wife (Cara) has been so supportive and she goes to the events,” said Snyder. “I am very fortunate. It has worked out in this time of our life and it’s like it is what we were meant to do.” Snyder then joked, “About the only thing I am missing is television shows, so I now see how much time I have wasted in front of the TV. But seriously, I wake up every morning excited about what comes next.”
And Kokomo faithful should be excited about having an athletic director who bleeds Red and Blue as much as Jason Snyder. It appears he will fall in line as another legend, much like mentors Barsh, Callane and Wade.