Dear St. Albans Family:
For the past two months, St. Albans has been engaged in a comprehensive national search for our next athletic director. From our conversations with alumni, families, and student-athletes, it was clear to us that the St. Albans community sought two important qualities in our next athletic director: first, someone who would embody the mission of St. Albans, providing continuity of values and respect for our proud athletic history; and second, someone who would bring new vision, new ideas, and dynamic leadership to St. Albans’ athletics, helping us to take our program to the next level of excellence in an increasingly complicated athletic landscape. In short, the community told us that they wanted both continuity and change; stability and innovation; a grounding in our mission and the capacity to think in bold new ways.
While alignment with our mission was a critical prerequisite for the role, we knew this could not be a “status quo” appointment. Our program needs transformational leadership, and we entered the search process with that goal firmly in mind. We knew we were looking for a creative, forward-thinking leader. We recognized that the complexity of our athletic program now requires a full-time athletic director in a senior administrative role who is not also a varsity head coach; at the same time, we wanted to find someone with a distinguished coaching background who will serve as a “coach of coaches,” supporting all of our athletic programs, coaches, and student-athletes. We sought someone who could motivate each student-athlete to discover his potential and who would push each team to compete at the highest level possible. And we were looking for a role model who would build an inclusive atmosphere where boys support their teammates, build healthy life habits, and find joy in practicing and competing together.
During the course of this highly competitive search, we were privileged to meet a wonderfully diverse group of candidates with widely varied backgrounds and life experiences, from college-level coaches and athletic administrators to established athletic directors in both independent and public schools. Ultimately, out of this talented group of educators, it was someone familiar to us who brought the boldest, most comprehensive, and most thoughtful vision for the future of St. Albans athletics.
It is therefore with great excitement that I announce that St. Albans’ next athletic director will be Daniel J. Ryan, our associate athletic director since 2013, head hockey coach since 2005, and manager and later director of capital projects from 2005 to 2019, throughout the renovation of the athletic fields and construction of Marriott Hall. Dan will step down as hockey coach and assume his new role as athletic director on July 1, 2021.
In addition to serving as our associate athletic director and our head hockey coach, Dan is a Form V and VI academic advisor, sits on the Admissions Committee, serves as an assistant football and baseball coach, and is step-father to Joel DeClue ’18. He knows St. Albans: the mission of the school, the boys, their parents, the faculty and staff, the athletics and academic program, and the facilities. And yet, when we began talking about the athletic director position, he told me, “I’m not the status quo candidate.” It didn’t take long to realize he was speaking the truth. Dan has a sweeping new vision for our program, and he has the skills and mindset to implement it. I look forward to working with him as he uses his talents and strengths to transform our program in the years ahead.
Dan brings a deep and nuanced understanding of competitive athletics, marketing, and communications to this position. He received his bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Michigan. Before coming to St. Albans, Dan served as vice president of Turnkey Sports, a consulting service to professional sports franchises; director of marketing and promotions for the Texas Tornado NAHL franchise; director of public relations for the Central Hockey League’s Wichita Thunder; and business manager for the NHL’s Dallas Stars, who won the Stanley Cup (yes, he has a Stanley Cup ring) while he was part of the organization. Dan spoke powerfully during the search process about how his professional background will enable him to think in bold, creative ways about how to tell the story of St. Albans athletics and how to market our program to attract the best scholar-athletes in the DMV: young men who seek a world-class athletic experience in the context of first-rate academics and a strong moral, character-based education.
At St. Albans, Dan has reinvigorated our hockey program, increasing Upper School student participation by 50 percent, creating a popular middle school program, and winning the school’s first ever IAC hockey championships in 2017 and 2019. In 2010 and 2016, league coaches named him the Ervin J. Terwilliger MAPHL Coach of the Year. Through our faculty development program, Dan has gained extensive experience hiring, training, and evaluating head coaches—ensuring that they are both masters of their sport and passionate, skilled teachers. He is a strategic thinker, and he also is a detail-oriented organizer. In 2014-15, with our athletic fields, track, and tennis courts closed for renovation, Dan found the fields and arranged for the transportation and permits for 1,500 off-campus practices and games.
Dan’s strategic proposal for the Athletic Department includes a comprehensive plan for athlete development, physical well-being, nutrition, and skills development, starting in fourth grade and continuing through twelfth. With his strong background in communications and marketing, Dan is eager to work closely with Admissions, the College Office, and the Communications Office to promote our programs, keep families informed, share our success stories, and support boys as they develop as athletes at St. Albans and beyond.
A man of great integrity, Dan, sees teamwork, individual sacrifice, integrity, sportsmanship, and the development of the whole athlete as foundational to our program. As Dan will tell you, the fields aren’t just an extension of our classroom; they are our largest classroom, a place where every boy is challenged physically, intellectually, and emotionally, every year at St. Albans.
With Dan now taking on a critical new senior administrative role as the leader of our entire athletic program, he will be responsible for the athletic experience of every boy from C Form to Form VI. Our expectation is that he, as our new athletic director, will devote himself fully to supporting every team, every coach, and every student-athlete in the school. To ensure he has the time and capacity to perform these critically important functions on behalf of all our coaches and all of our boys, he will no longer serve as our head varsity hockey coach. Just as the responsibilities of being an athletic director have grown in complexity, so too have the demands of coaching a varsity sport. The decision to separate the athletic director role from head coaching responsibilities reflects a commitment on the part of St. Albans to ensure that each sport, as well as the athletic program writ large, has the leadership and coaching model needed to flourish at the highest level. It also reflects our conviction that the athletic director needs the time and the independence to be a “coach of all of our coaches,” establishing high standards, investing in the development of coaches, and giving them robust feedback to ensure their continuing excellence and professional growth.
I extend my appreciation to The Finney Search Group, the external search firm who supported us in this process; the members of our Athletic Director Search Committee—Tyler Casertano, Deanna Coll, Cameron Dantley ’04, Jim Ehrenhaft ’83, Daniel Finer, honorary alumnus Skip Grant, R.J. Johnsen, the Rev. Rachelle Sam, Sam Schaffer, Brendan Sullivan ’93, Matt Virtue, and Suzanne Woods; the other teachers, coaches, senior administrators, and student-athletes who met with the finalists; and all who shared their insights through recent town halls and other forms of outreach.
I hope you will join me in congratulating Dan and thanking him for taking on this new role. I look forward to meeting with you and Dan this spring in a zoom town hall so that he can share his dynamic, forward-thinking vision with you. Under his leadership, I believe we are entering a period of extraordinary growth and progress for our athletic program.