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Joy, St. Mary’s prep for change

In his lifetime, it’s a safe bet that James Joy never figured he’d find himself getting sentimental about a trip to Lakeview.

And, yet, that’s precisely what happened last week to the St. Mary’s High athletic director.

“It was a weird deal,” Joy said during a break from action Friday night while overseeing home basketball games. “I found myself thinking I’ve probably been to Lakeview 50 times and this might be the last time for me.”

The 45-year-old Joy is stepping away from his role as AD once his 11th year is complete this spring in order to spend more time with his family, which includes three children — two under the age of 3.

“It’s tough on the family to be here a lot,” he said. “I’ve done a good amount of work here and feel pretty good about making a change at this point.”

The inner-workings of Joy’s shift back to the classroom at St. Mary’s has already begun and expands daily as he and the school transition toward Adam Peterson taking over the athletic department. Peterson, 34, previously served on the school’s Board of Trustees, has been an assistant football coach at St. Mary’s for five years and served as a Jackson County Circuit Court judge before losing his re-election bid last November.

“Our school has been real honored to have James for the last 11 years serving as our AD,” said Peterson, who will also serve as the school’s general counsel after seven years as a prosecutor. “It’s big shoes to step into and I’m looking forward to continuing our commitment to excellence here at St. Mary’s in regards to sports, not only on the court or on the field or track but also off of it. If anything, that’s quite frankly more important to us here at St. Mary’s.”

Joy, who has been with the Crusaders 21 years overall, has been a fine steward for such an atmosphere at St. Mary’s. His first three years at the school were spent coaching volleyball and girls golf and then he came to work full-time at the school as a physical education and mathematics teacher before becoming its AD.

“We’ve definitely seen a lot of change here over the years,” said Joy. “When I took over (as AD) the high school enrollment was about 175 and last year we had 220 kids do at least one sport and our high school enrollment now is between 310-315. The school has grown in so many ways.”

Not surprisingly, Joy’s finest memories from his last decade of work as AD are more community oriented instead of personal.

“Really the thing I take the most pride in is just the relationships that have been built with our coaches on staff, students, community members at large, our friends in our league and statewide,” he said. “That’s something I don’t want to go away because I really cherish a lot of those relationships and a lot of the memories. I have just great memories from everything from the bizarre plays to unbelievable state championship performances by kids. It’s been a lot of work, not by me, mostly our coaches and our teachers.”

Joy said his philosophy as athletic director has been to try to provide a good experience for the students in whatever they choose to be passionate about. He noted continued support from the school’s administration and a host of well-intentioned coaches he’s been fortunate enough to be surrounded by all these years.

“I’m proud of our coaches and students for achieving everything they have,” he said, “and all of that is because of what they do. I’m not some sort of puppeteer or anything; it’s all been because of their efforts.”

All humility aside, Joy was a driving force in helping St. Mary’s remain at the Class 3A level last year after the Oregon Schools Activities Association initially planned for a move to the 4A level. He has worked diligently to add tennis, swimming and baseball to the Crusaders’ list of sports and, among other issues, had to deal with the loss of softball only a couple years removed from earning a league title as well as the loss, then revitalization, of the football program.

What comes next in the sports world at St. Mary’s High is anyone’s guess, said Joy, and something he is more than comfortable leaving for Peterson to handle.

“I feel like the transition is going to be smooth,” he said. “I already have practice resigning from the volleyball head coach and the golf head coach and then stayed on as my successors’ boss and didn’t Meddle. I just wanted to support them and have them achieve as much as they could. I feel the same way about Adam. He’s going to maybe pop in my office and ask a question or two but I’m not going to meddle in what he’s doing. It's going to be his programs. I think he’s going to do a great job.”

The AD’s job can be a fantastic one, according to Joy, and one of tremendous value. Part of his reason for traveling to Lakeview last week, besides the fact that the Crusaders basketball teams were squaring off against the Honkers, was to offer an in-person word of thanks to Lakeview Principal Steve Prock, who Joy considers a mentor and good friend from his days back as Glendale’s AD.

That trip offered a blend of satisfying and melancholy moments, much like he anticipates will take place once the spring term runs its course.

One thing Joy won’t miss out on, however, is being a true Crusaders fan.

“People think a lot of being athletic director is you get to sit and watch games all day,” he said. “That’s the best part and it rarely happens. I might actually get to see an entire game now, which would be great.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry