Yellow Springs Schools | Athletic Leadership Change • Yellow Springs News
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Yellow Springs Schools | Athletic Leadership Change • Yellow Springs News

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According to administrators holding those positions, the recent change in roles at YS schools will bolster both the district’s ongoing facility improvement project and its growing athletic program.

Jeff Eyrich, who has served as the district’s athletic director and chief operating officer for the past four years, will assume the latter role on a full-time basis, with Shawna Welch taking on the athletic director duties as her full-time protégé.

Welch joins the district’s administrative team after teaching STEM classes at McKinney Middle School for the 2023-2024 school year; she taught a vocational education class at YS High School the previous year.

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Having begun her education career as a science teacher, Welch brings more than a decade of administrative experience to the district in the Miami Valley, including nine years as principal at Wright Brothers High School in Dayton and Athletic Director for Dayton Public Schools for two years.

“I’ve been in education for a long time,” she told the News in a recent interview with both administrators.

Eyrich was initially hired by YS Schools in 2019 on a part-time basis as Athletic Director, and the following year assumed the role of Director of Operations, covering student food services, campus and traffic safety, janitorial services, and facilities planning and maintenance, including the Facilities Improvement Project.

In an interview with the News, Eyrich said Welch’s new position as full-time athletic director will benefit the district’s athletic programs.

“Her full attention will be focused on sports,” he said.

Welch, for her part, said she is looking forward to her new role, which will give her an opportunity to interact with the district’s students “in a different way” through the athletic program.

“Being an administrator all these years and recently coming back to the classroom has given me a different perspective on teaching,” she said. “Sports are important to education, and being able to build a program here that allows kids to see that athletics can be a path to (college) for them — that’s what excites me the most.”

She added that because Eyrich will remain in the district, she will be able to count on his support, which will help her go through the adjustment process in her new position more easily.

“Every time I see (Eyrich), he says, ‘We got you, Shawna!’” she said.

Looking ahead, Welch said she will focus on expanding athletic programs, in part by working with Mills Lawn physical education teacher Emily Berlo to expose students to team sports at an early age so they feel encouraged to pursue them in middle and high school. Eyrich noted that Berlo has already begun a dialogue with administrators about creating a basketball program for fifth and sixth grades.

“We want elementary school students to have access to physical education programs that are designed to teach some of these basic skills,” Welch said. “We also want to (work) with outside organizations that are willing to leverage and bring the skills and camps to the village so kids don’t have to go out of town to learn them.”

Welch pointed out that most promising young athletes begin learning the basic skills of team sports by competing in club sports, sometimes starting in kindergarten. Eyrich added that because local students have to leave town to participate in club leagues, most district athletes do not participate in club sports.

“So when we get a seventh-grader into volleyball, that’s their first year playing the sport,” he said, adding that falling behind other districts in skill level can be discouraging for young athletes just starting out at McKinney.

“We have to let these kids know that one day they’re going to win a conference championship — because we’re going to win one,” Eyrich said. “When they get to the high school level, something just clicks, but we’re still at a disadvantage in seventh and eighth grade. So for (Welch), one of her main goals is to get that core program up and running.”

“And when (current elementary school students) get to middle school and high school, we’ll have new facilities,” Welch added. “We’ll have new equipment, and we hope they’ll want to participate and be part of the team.”

As chief operating officer, Eyrich said he is working closely with Ruetschle Architects and Conger Construction Group, the firms hired by the district to design and build improved facilities at McKinney and YS High Schools — which will include building a new, regulation-size gym and renovating the current gym to add an improved stage and retractable seating in the auditorium. Eyrich said he is excited about the upcoming changes at the East Enon Road campus.

“As the previous athletic director, spending the last five years in a gym without air conditioning — I know there was a lot of history made in the old gym, but I’m hopeful that we can make some history in the new gym,” he said. “So that our choir and theater students have a real auditorium, and our high school athletes have a place to practice. “It’s really exciting for me to be able to lead this process.”

Reflecting on his years as athletic director, Eyrich said that while Yellow Springs is a small district with fewer athletic opportunities than some larger districts in the area, he is proud that about 40 percent of high school and middle school students participate in athletic programs. He said the district’s athletes have a 3.33 grade-point average — another source of pride.

“They work so hard, so as a district, I’m excited that we’ll be able to provide them with the amenities they deserve,” he said.

And while he will miss spearheading local high school sports, he said he isn’t going anywhere and will still be here to cheer on the young athletes — and Welch.

“You know, I did what I could, and I think we did a great job — but boy, can we make it even better?” he said. “I’m very excited to have Shawna in this position full time.”