Creswell, Sports Zone

Standridge: Culture first, the wins will come

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a series of profiles on our area’s high school athletic directors. Be on the lookout in the coming weeks for Parts 2-5.

CRESWELL – Some people are born to walk down a certain career path, whether they know it or not. For Brandon Standridge, Creswell High School’s athletic director, everyone in his family had a feeling what his path was — except him.

“Growing up, for the most part, I wanted to go into law and be a sports agent. I caught the ‘Jerry Maguire’ bug. All through high school, and mostly through college, that was my goal,” Standridge said. “I was a history major with a political science minor and was gonna go pre-law. So high school teaching and coaching and athletic directing was not there at all.”

Born in 1981 in Roseburg and raised in Riddle, Standridge was an athlete from the get-go. 

“I mean as far back as I can remember, we had tee-ball when I was five. We’d play baseball on the coast, play basketball on Saturdays,” Standridge said. “I’ve been doing this my whole entire life. When it was all said and done, I played four sports in high school: football, cross country, basketball, and baseball.” 

Standridge played his way to Linfield University in McMinnville, playing on its basketball team his first few years there.

By the time his senior year rolled around, the “Jerry Maguire” path was still the plan. That is, until he got the chance to coach.

“I played basketball at Linfield for a couple of years and kind of got over the daily grind of playing basketball in college. It’s a lot, so my senior year I was doing other things, and the women’s coach at Linfield called me and asked if I’d be interested in coaching the JV girls team,” he said. “She knew I played, and they needed a coach. It was maybe 10 or 12 games, and it paid around $1,000, which is really good for a college kid.”

$1,000 and 10 or 12 games later, Standridge had caught a new bug. One that made him reevaluate his childhood dream.

“I ended up really, really enjoying it. And then I was like, well, maybe there’s a way for me to do this post college. I was super nervous to tell my family that I may be changing my mind about my goal that I’ve had since fifth grade,” Standridge said. “But when I did, my family was like, ‘Well, that’s what we thought you should’ve been the whole time.’”

Halfway through his senior year, Standridge had a new goal in mind, but no formal education in that area. Straight after graduating from Linfield, Standridge headed to Pacific University for a masters in teaching.

The starting point

After receiving his masters in teaching, Standridge got his first job teaching part-time at Glendale High School just south of where he grew up in Riddle. Standridge was the U.S. History and Government teacher, as well as the head boys basketball coach. 

As a part-time teacher and on the lookout for extra income, Standridge’s boss at Glendale gave him the opportunity to be the supervisor during football games. All OSAA games must have a supervisor, but Glendale’s AD was also the football coach at the time.

“I had a really good athletic director who hired me at Glendale, and I actually played baseball against the AD that hired me since we played at rival high schools,” he said. “He was a football coach, so he gave me an opportunity to be the supervisor during football games when he was coaching. So I just started chipping away at understanding what an AD does.”

Similar to his path to teaching, Standridge found himself drawn to the administration side once he got a taste of it.

“I always just wanted to teach and coach, and never really wanted to be in administration. It wasn’t something I sought out when I started teaching, but I had a lot of people that told me, ‘You would be good at this, you have a good vision,’” Standridge said. “With Glendale getting smaller and smaller, I started looking at both teaching/coaching jobs and AD jobs, and the first one I got was a dean of students and athletic director at Bandon.”

And so Standridge began his first stint as an athletic director, not sure if his vision was going to work or not.

“It was nerve-wracking and good all at the same time. Within a couple months of being there, they talked to me about getting my admin credential, so I can officially become assistant principal, not just dean of students,” Standridge said. “There was a lot of learning, figuring out if my vision for things worked or not. That was a good trial and error, and I was the third AD there in three years, so I wanted to bring some stability to it.”

During Standridge’s time at Bandon – a small coastal town in Coos County that boasts year-round fishing, cycling, golf, hiking, and beach-going – he hired Jordan Sammons, now the Bandon AD, to be a teacher and middle school football coach.

Sammons

“I moved here from Louisiana and he was one of the people who gave me a tour around the school and showed me the facilities,” Sammons said. “Right from the very beginning, it was a comforting, supportive feeling. Moving from out of state to a place I’ve never been, our conversations and interactions when he was walking me around the facilities just made me feel like I was going to have good support coming in as both a coach and a teacher.”

Sammons ended up taking over the girls basketball program after the previous head coach stepped down. Sammons said the risk of taking that role was “stepping out on a limb for me,” but that he did it because he knew Standridge would give him the support and mentorship he needed.

“I think one of the main things is that he was a coach before he was an athletic director. Having that experience, he’s been in the shoes of the coaches and the teachers. I think he does a good job of not forgetting those days,” Sammons said. “He remembers what it’s like, the grind of practices, the grind of the season, some of the issues that coaches deal with that come up. He’s able to approach it from the leadership place, but he’s also been there and has that experience too.”

After Standridge left for Creswell, Sammons said they’ve stayed in touch and that Standridge became a mentor, helping him grow as an AD “just as much as he helped me grow as a coach.”

“Even when he left, he was always willing to take phone calls, and still help us get everything going at Bandon. I remember the first time we tried to put on a track meet after he left, it was really tough, and I bet he probably spent three hours on the phone just helping us get our track meet ready,” Sammons said. “He’s been a great mentor and a great asset still for our school district, even when he’s been over in Creswell. It’s been really cool to have him as a mentor through that athletic director side of things, too.”

Building the Bulldogs

After four years at Bandon, Standridge and his wife Stephanie decided it was time to move on. 

“My wife is from Thurston, she’s a Thurston grad. And me growing up in the Roseburg area, we were just over here a lot. We have season tickets to the Oregon football games … so it was just not an easy thing to do,” he said. “At some point we were spending money going back and forth, and we felt like it’d be a lot easier if we were just here, so we started looking and this job opened up. I was thankful enough to get it, and to make that move back over here on this side of the I-5.”

In 2019 Standridge was hired as the AD and assistant principal at Creswell High School. Since then he’s also taken on the role of Creswell Middle School’s athletic director, giving the youth of Creswell a consistency in the district that they haven’t seen before.

“When the job came open, we had discussions with people in the district and, for a lot of reasons, it made sense. We can kind of align our program grades 6-12, so our kids are hearing the same message,” Standridge said. “(For) the coaches it’s nice to have one person to go to. If they want to talk through an issue, then they always have one point person, which is really nice.”

Aligning the programs for student-athletes is one of the biggest roles Standridge has. As an assistant principal and athletic director, Standridge has the ability to make positive change in the classroom and on the playing field. Bridging the gap to ensure the high schoolers were truly student-athletes was the first initiative Standridge took on when he arrived.

“The biggest one was really redoing the academic policy. I changed it right away when I got here. I felt ours was a little weak and didn’t really give students the carrot-and-the-stick mentality,” he said. “They could kind of flow through and it wasn’t that big a deal if they got a bad grade. I wanted more parameters so we could partner with our teachers a little better.”

Jenny Collins came on as the principal at Creswell High School in 2020, a year after Standridge started. One of the first things Collins noticed was Standridge’s emphasis on students’ academic success.

Collins

“He’s very student-facing. And by that, I mean he’s always making sure that they’re being set up to be successful as students. … I think it’s just his general philosophy that they’re athletes, but they’re students first. So just making sure that throughout the hiring practice, and when working with coaches, reiterating that yes, these are athletes, but their first job is to be a student and to be present at school and making sure that coaches share that philosophy,” Collins said. “Success happens in both places, and we need for students to see that united front. That stuff is helpful, especially for new coaches who might come in as young coaches and need mentoring, and he is great at that.”

Just this past year, Standridge helped implement a program to further ensure that students are getting the maximum amount of support they need. The W.I.N. (What I Need) program is available four days a week, and sets aside 30 minutes for “kids to get help,” he said.

As the head of athletics, Bulldogs fans and supporters who attend events have likely seen Standridge, possibly with his 13-month-old Brye. Getting out to those events adds to the connection that Standridge has with the students and the athletes, and helps promote his goal of having the teams support each other.

“For me, being at events is fun, watching the kids succeed. Being a high school athlete, I remember what that feels like, so it’s fun watching them be out there,” Standridge said. “I put a big focus on our culture and trying to improve that. It starts with the coaches, promoting teams supporting teams. … We want to try to get the football players after practice to go watch the volleyball game, and get our boys and girls teams supporting each other, so I want to keep pushing that.”

According to Collins, it’s one of the many traits that make Standridge successful.

“He’s just out and about, he’s walking around. So I think when you choose to build that relationship with students and athletes, then the balancing act is a lot easier,” Collins said. “His ability to build that relationship with both students and athletes is an asset. And it’s not just our students that are on the floor as athletes, but I think even our spectators, his ability to manage the crowd, to help get all of the students in the stands, it’s really special.”

That balancing act is something that athletic directors everywhere struggle with, and even more so with the duties of an assistant principal as well.

“Some days I’m here from 7:30 in the morning till 10:30 at night, then back at 7:30 the next day. It’s a big, big lift,” said Standridge, citing a schedule akin to something the most hard-working athletes endure. “Some days I get to focus on pretty much all athletics and schedules. Then other days I don’t get to athletics at all, and it’s all discipline and attendance. Over the course of the year it just kind of balances out.”

Standridge said he loves the challenge of putting together the teams’ schedules each year, a challenging puzzle for most.

“It’s kind of quirky, but I love the scheduling piece. Trying to figure out what teams to schedule based on how our team is gonna be. I knew our basketball team this year was gonna be pretty good, so we scheduled pretty tough,” he said. “Then with a team that’s a little younger, you may schedule some teams that you know will be competitive, some teams that are tough, and some teams we can win against.”

Standridge has been the athletic director at Creswell high for four years now.

Looking ahead

With the Standridges’ local ties – and Ducks fandom – it’s clear he’s ready to dig in for bigger goals. 

“I want to help Creswell grow its youth programs. Around our town we don’t have a ton of community fields. Other towns have a community baseball park or something like that, but all of our athletic fields (belong to) the school districts,” Standridge said. “I want the next generation to come up playing here, having that pride, and having that experience being Creswell through and through.”

For those around him, they see the way those plans are executed.

“I think we both have that vision for a strong culture and climate, and that we partner well around that, and I appreciate that,” Collins said. “He’s just able to step in and do what he needs to do so that I can do what I need to do. I don’t have to worry about him taking care of things, and I also just really appreciate who he is as a person. I think what you see is what you get and that speaks volumes to people.”

“He’s just a really selfless guy. He puts the school district and what’s best for the district and his coaches, and the student-athletes, at the forefront of everything he does,” Sammons said. “I know first-hand it’s always awesome to follow somebody’s leadership when you know how invested they are. … Leadership really starts from the top down, and he just does a great job of showing these coaches and athletes why setting a good example is so important.” 

From his beginnings in education at Glendale to now at Creswell, Standridge’s dedication to student-athletes has earned the respect of those around him, but his full legacy at Creswell has yet to be written.

Editors Note: See part two of the series here: https://www.chronicle1909.com/2023/08/03/thurstons-starck-brings-championship-pedigree/

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