The THSADA is hosting a series of conversations with some of our retired members. The purpose of these interviews is to provide current athletic administrators with a sense of what their peers had to deal with in the past and to keep up with what some of our retired members are currently doing.
The second interview in this series is with former THSADA President and Hall of Honor member-Karen Funk. Karen was the former Director of Athletics for the North East ISD and served as THSADA President from 2014-2015.
- When did you get into education, and can you detail your professional resume from start to finish?
I began teaching in 1981 and retired (the first time) in 2020. I coached and taught for the first 21 years at three different schools and finished up as the head volleyball coach at Madison HS in San Antonio. I served TGCA as the volleyball Chairman and on the board as a regional representative for a couple of years. After several years at the Athletic Office, I served on the THSADA Board of Directors in several positions and finished service as the President in 2015. The NIAAA came twice to San Antonio during my tenure, and I served on the committee both times and co-hosted once. I have been fortunate to have receive several honors during my time as Athletic Director of North East ISD to include Athletic Director of the Year and to be inducted into the Hall of Honor. After being away from public schools, I am presently employed at San Antonio Christian School as their Athletic Coordinator and right back into the fray.
- When you first became an Athletic Administrator, what were some of the initial challenges that you faced?
Learning to Network. Relationships are the cornerstone to every successful venture, and I spent a great deal of time building relationships across numerous areas. Working with administrators and coaches from every campus and meeting their communities’ specific needs while staying within the guidelines of the district or learning each sport association staff and building a rapport and trust with their officials. Then building a solid relationship with all of the Area ADs to benefit not only my district, but all of the other districts in the city and our athletes.
The second biggest challenge was being female in the Athletic Office. There were very few women across the state at that time in the district athletic office or at UIL even. Houston had more women working at the district level than any other metropolitan areas. So, every meeting I went to it was me and 10 men. If there were 20 men- there might be another woman in the meeting. As a woman, you had to be overly prepared and voice an opinion or have input otherwise you would be discounted. So, I made sure I was always prepared, that my input would be valued and that I made our district or area look good. It was an interesting time.
- How well-prepared were you for the job when you first became an Athletic Administrator?
I was not prepared for the enormity of the task as I had been only a head volleyball coach and an assistant coach for basketball and track with no campus leadership responsibilities. My Athletic Director, Jerry Comalander set the example every day in the Athletic Office, and I followed his lead. It was an intense first 2 years working with 16 secondary schools at the time, while overseeing 6 different athletic programs from start to finish for all high schools and middle schools. The next 18 years were full of new challenges from central office, or the legislature, or even the building of new schools, but I had great mentors and a network that made it rewarding as we tackled the next project.
4. Did you have any mentors who you communicated with once you became an Athletic Administrator?
I was very fortunate to have a great boss and teacher with Jerry Comalander, but the Area AD’s were so open to dialogue about everything and feed me information constantly. Once I was on the THSADA Board, I began to network with women across the state and get their perspective on issues that every large district was dealing with across the state. Sherry Stice, Sandra Howell, Debbie Decker, Sheila Henderson, Lynn Pool, Candy Tanner, and Kirby Jameson just to name a few that I called regularly. Texas has an amazing wealth of knowledge and administrators who are willing to share their thoughts and plans that were successful for them.
5. From the outside looking in, what do you feel are some of the biggest challenges that face Athletic Administrators today?
Safety is the major concern today – especially at all venues. Keep our kids, coaches, officials. and parents safe from senseless attacks. Metal detectors, clear purses, or back packs, wanding, and any other precautions still leave a nagging thought in all administrators minds what else can be done. I don’t have any solutions as our country grapples with this alarming trend.
Participation in all sports fell right before Covid. Boys and girls were not coming out for sports for lots of reasons including club or select sports. Now I think they are hungry to be involved in school sports, so how do we keep them and grow programs? What changes do we need to make at the 6th grade level to grow athletics across the state? How do we keep outside sport agencies from keeping athletes from participating at their high school? It is important to grab this opportunity and ride the wave of renewed interest.