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Avery High School alumnus and current school counselor Jay Smith adds the position of director of athletics to his job title beginning July 1. Photo by Jamie Shell

Originally published: 2012-06-27 12:07:08
Last modified: 2012-06-27 12:10:10

Smith hired as new Avery athletic director

Jamie Shell / (

Avery High School didn't have to look far to find its man to fill its director of athletics vacancy. In fact, it only had to look across the hall in the administrative portion of the school, as school counselor Jamison "Jay" Smith has been hired to replace David Wright, who is retiring from the position at the end of this week.
Smith, an Avery County native who currently resides in the Cranberry community, is the son of Darrell and Bugs Smith and is a 1991 graduate of Avery High School. Smith earned a degree at Montreat Anderson College. Smith worked as a counselor with a combination of juvenile court and Department of Social Services in Catawba County for 13 years before he and wife, Kelly, returned to Avery County in 2005 to work at AHS and raise their family, including their two-year old daughter, Katie, and 11-week old infant son, Nolan.
Smith served previously at Avery as assistant athletic director from 2009-10 and as assistant baseball coach from 2005-10. The AJT sat down with Smith this week to discuss his new position and his outlook for Vikings athletics.
AJT: What attracted you to the athletic director position, and why do you feel you were the best person for the job?
JS: To be honest, I love athletics, and I also think it's a good mesh with my current position as a counselor. Both positions require building relationships and working with kids. From my previous experience, I just felt that it was a good match. I understand what it's like for a kid to work to be eligible on the academic side, and understand the entire process of not just eligibility but attendance and involvement in the school. I would love for every kid from an elementary or middle school level who steps onto our fields or courts to say "Someday I'd love to be a Viking" and "I WANT to be a Viking."
AJT: What strengths do you see yourself bringing to Avery athletics that will benefit the high school?
JS: The first thing is probably an understanding of the holistic sports program, not particularly one sport, but from doing some of the day-to-day operations I have an idea of what needs done and what is expected. I understand how to handle people, which my job has involved for the past 16 years, so I feel those communication skills, mediation skills and the skills I use as a counselor will be effective when dealing with players, coaches, officials, parents, administration and basically everyone you have to deal with as athletic director.
I believe our facilities are among the top facilities in the state, and their appearance and, most importantly, being safe, is an important part of an athletic director's job. Other areas are also important, like being onboard and responsible with finances and playing teams we need to play or should be playing. We need to play teams not only that we can compete with, but also to financially be successful. We'd all love to see some of our border games return, and I would as well, so I hope we can work toward making that happen.
AJT: You have spent time helping with the athletics programs at the high school the past couple seasons. Has David Wright offered any insight into the job that will be helpful or have you discussed the job with him?
JS: David and I have talked. Having worked both with Matthew Bentley and David Wright, each has his own strengths in running an athletics department and I have learned a lot from both of them. David and I recently discussed daily operations and getting coaches in place that need to be in place, plus the financial side of the program.
AJT: What is your assessment of the current state of Avery athletics?
JS: I think the program is in good shape. I think it's just a matter of coming in and putting my own touch to it. There aren't any gaping holes and we have a few minor projects like painting at facilities and so forth. But overall, we have some of the nicest facilities in high school sports in the entire state, definitely in 1A. We have a couple of areas that need spruced up and painting, but nothing major. In my opinion, the program's in good shape.
AJT: You enter this new position with the need for the school to hire a new head basketball coach. Are you currently involved in the process of finding the next coach, and what has it been like to hit the ground running, so to speak, with this task?
JS: We have Coach Reggie Oakes who has been great working with the kids during the summer and assisting during basketball season, and we are currently in the process of looking for a coach. I haven't had a lot of involvement in looking for the next coach yet, but I know it is ongoing and I expect to have an active role in the decision-making process.
AJT: Overall, how much of a hands-on approach will you take to the position and the athletic programs?
JS: I'm someone who likes to be around and am excited to be involved. I want to be visible at as many games and events as possible. I see part of my job involving being seen and accessible. Accessibility is vital, as we are working together to build a successful program, and it's also important for me to work with our coaches to spend time and work with our younger athletes. That's where programs are built, in your elementary and middle school levels. I feel we've been lacking in that at times at the younger ages in teaching them the skills they need, and I feel passionate about strengthening ties with our coaches and the coaches and players at the middle school and elementary school levels. We need to teach skills to kids at that level to better prepare them for high school athletics.
We're a bit behind the eight ball if we aren't getting kids ready before their freshman year of high school, and we can all work together to bridge those gaps and develop our programs, specifically in the sports of baseball, basketball and football.
I see my role as both a counselor and as athletic director is to help all our kids to get through school successfully. I want to see our kids perform at the highest level possible, and I want them to be not only ambassadors in our school system, but also in our community.