Pisgah has chosen new leaders for its athletic department, and they’ll all be familiar faces. Following Casey Kruk’s departure to be Canton Middle School’s new principal, last Thursday the Haywood County School Board approved Heidi Morgan as the school’s new athletic director, and Brandon Holloway and Harold Shepard as associate athletic directors.
Morgan, who graduated from Pisgah in 2002 and arrived as a coach in 2011, has spent the past three years as associate AD under Kruk. She will oversee the whole department.
Shepard, who has spent 14 total years at Pisgah, will be the facilities supervisor, and Holloway, who has been at Pisgah since 2001, will oversee strength and conditioning.
Following Kruk’s departure, Pisgah principal Clint Connor sent out an internal email about the position. There were four to five applicants interested that interviewed with a panel and committee of school administrators. Connor arrived at the decision to split the associate position into two to make use of each person’s strengths.
“I think all three of these people are people that do not stand back,” Connor said. “I think they’re not afraid to roll their sleeves up, so to speak, and do the hard work that’s needed for Pisgah to be successful. I think the second thing that sticks out in my mind is all three of these people are very, very loyal people to our community. The third thing that sticks out to me is they all will go to the moon for our students. They’re just very salt of the earth people and they’ll work really, really hard.”
Morgan grew up in Haywood County, and played softball and basketball at Pisgah before graduating in 2002. She came back to Pisgah in 2011 and has coached tennis, women’s golf and basketball, along with softball, a role she’ll continue as AD, along with taking over as the varsity volleyball coach.
Morgan thanked Connor and the Pisgah administrators, Haywood County Schools and Superintendent Bill Nolte for giving her the opportunity, and praised the job Kruk did both leaving the athletic department in a good position and preparing her for the role.
“It’s an honor,” Morgan said. “Pisgah athletics has been led by two outstanding athletic directors up until this point. … The fact that I’m at home and get to be the athletic director where I graduated from is humbling, to say the least.”
Morgan taking over as AD will be a first for the Pisgah athletic department; she’ll be the school’s first female athletic director.
Morgan knows the important role the female leaders in her life have played, from former Pisgah softball coach Cyrena Goodwin, members of her family and former Pisgah principal Jill Barker, the school’s first female principal. She hopes to fill that role for the school’s female student athletes now, especially as a coach who has spent the better part of 10 years in girls sports.
“I think, in today’s society, it’s important for young women of all ages to have strong female leadership. I think sometimes that lacks in certain areas. I hope to be that person for young female athletes, that whatever you dream, do it. You’ve got to chase it, you’ve got to work hard.”
A family thing
Morgan is excited to work with her new associates, and they feel the same way.
As coaches of similar sports (softball and baseball), Shepard and Morgan have already worked together closely during their time at Pisgah, bouncing ideas off each other in terms of facility maintenance and drills.
“It’s continuing on that family thing,” Shepard said. “We already know each other, we’re already excited for each other, and it’s going to be a good thing for the people, it’s going to be a good thing for the community and it’s going to be a good thing for the school.”
For Holloway and Morgan, being athletic director and associate athletic director will be a bit of a role reversal.
When Morgan was a student-athlete at Pisgah, Holloway was her coach. He praised her passion and loyalty for the school, well-roundedness in sports and organizational skills.
“To be able to sit and listen, to see her grow and develop, as one of her former coaches is so exciting,” Holloway said. “Now it’s my turn to hopefully learn from her, and I look forward to doing that.”
Morgan knows she’ll need those organizational skills, as she continues as the head coach of two varsity sports in addition to being AD.
She knows that her support system, Shepard and Holloway in the administration, and her assistant coaches on both volleyball and softball, will be key in helping her manage everything.
“I always loved the quote that a head coach is only as good as their assistant coaches,” Morgan said. “I have amazing assistant coaches on both volleyball and softball, so I feel confident that they’ll be there to help whenever I need it. But the kids are why I want to be in athletics so I didn’t want to give up coaching.”
Morgan has long-term and short-term goals as Pisgah AD; among the short-term goals are working with Holloway on some new strength and conditioning programs, and Shepard on some facility upgrades.
However; the first order of business is the 15,000-pound elephant in the room of the sports world right now: the COVID-19 pandemic.
Morgan’s first priority will be ensuring the health and safety of the Bears’ student athletes as the school continues to do as much as allowed in terms of workouts and practices under guidelines from the NCHSAA in preparation for a fall season.
“I think it’s like anything else,” Morgan said. “You’ve just got to be knowledgeable, take it one day at a time, try not to put the cart before the horse. Safety is the first thing when we’re protecting our kids, making sure that they’re safe and we’re following all the protocol that we need to. Just continue to express working hard when we have workouts, work hard at home so that we’re prepared when our seasons can start.”
So, when it comes down to it, what kind of leader and athletic director does Morgan want to be?
“I want to lead by example,” Morgan said. “I wouldn’t ask any one of the coaches at Pisgah to do anything that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. I want to be the type of person that inspires our student athletes to give back to the community. It is about athletics, and we want to win championships, but it’s about what you give back to the community. The Pisgah community gives us outstanding support, better than any I’ve ever heard of, and without our community, it wouldn’t be what it is. So I’d like to be the person to be a servant leader, have others follow and give back to those that need it the most.”
See the weekend Mountaineer for more on Pisgah’s new athletic leadership.