Athletic directors did dirty work, too

Being a high school athletic director is a tough job in supervising people with different priorities and personalities.

But it’s not as tough as the summer jobs the administrators held long before they entered education. Two years ago, I polled the area football coaches. Last year, it was the basketball coaches.

Now, it’s the ADs’ turn to share summer work experiences that inspired or horrified them into continuing their education. Here are some of the responses I received:



In the summer of 1977 when I was a junior at Arkansas Tech, I worked third shift at the Atkins Pickle plant in Atkins.

My job was to figure the formula for the brine and flavor machines. I worked from 10 p.m.- 6 a.m., drove back to Russellville, took my clothes off on the back porch because they smelled like pickle juice, took a shower, then went to class.

It was a summer of smelling like pickles, going to class and surviving on very little sleep.



Growing up working on my grandfather’s and dad’s farm, I thought I had been well acclimated to functioning in a very hot environment.

Then, there was the summer of 1980 and (former Alma coach) Frank Vines’ brutal two-a-day football practices. There were at least 40 days of 100-degree heat that summer. I am convinced coach Vines controlled the weather back then and may still do so to this day.

It could be a cloudy and cool day but, when he walked out the door for football practice, the clouds disappeared, plants wilted, and it was just us and that little swarm of gnats over the players wanting a drink.

I never saw any gnats near Coach Vines, though. Either, he didn’t sweat, or the gnats were afraid of him.

I think the men who taught me the most were the ones who made me sweat the most.



The worst job I ever had, hands down, was roofing.

I wasn’t a very big guy and hauling two bundles of shingles up a ladder over and over again was not fun, and that was after we ripped all the old shingles off.

Then, as the young, small guy, I was in charge of laying down the shingles in the proper place to allow the guy with the nail gun to nail them in. After all that fun, we got to clean up the shingles that didn’t make it into the truck when we ripped them off the roof. It looked like most of the guys, who obviously didn’t have to clean up the mess, missed the truck on purpose.

When I got down to clean it all up, it looked like there were enough shingles from our entire town on the ground that needed to be picked up.



Between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I worked at a cardboard container company.

They put me for a while on a dye cutter as a feeder. You would get hot cardboard from the corrugator and feed it into the dye cutter machine to be stamped and cut into a box template. We were tasked one night with cutting 800,000 cardboard boxes for cases of Coke. The cardboard was hot, and you couldn’t use gloves to push it into the machine. You had to use your bare hands.

The cardboard kept coming over and over again, and I had to keep the machine fed. I walked out that night with cardboard cuts all over my hands. After that summer, I knew that I wanted to finish school and go into education.

But I look back on my time there and was thankful for the experience. I met some great people, and they showed me a true work ethic.



I grew up in south Arkansas. My dad was a high school basketball coach, and in the summers, he roofed houses.

I helped him every summer from the time I was 12 years old until I was 25. It was the hottest and toughest job ever.

When I went to college, I never wanted to do that again.

Rick Fires can be reached at rfires@ nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWARick.

Log in to comment