New athletic director Shannon Taylor expects coaching to elevate the Tigers’ sports programs

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By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN

WOODLAKE – New Woodlake High School athletic director Shannon Taylor has a lot to be happy about in the first couple weeks at her new position. The top highlight so far was the Tigers’ snap of rival Exeter’s 16-year winning streak in the annual Valencia Cup game. However, she is not happy with just one milestone, but is passionate about the school’s athletic program’s rise to the level they once were.

“This is what I want to do for the rest of my career,” Taylor said. “Being in student services can just hurt your soul, and this has much more positive aspect to it.”

Taylor is new to Woodlake Unified School District, but sports are something which has helped shape her life. She grew up in Lancaster and attended Antelope Valley High School. Her entire family was sports-oriented so it was only natural she played softball for the Lopes, and was a member of the cheer squad. Her two brothers went on to compete at PAC-10 schools, Arizona State and University of California. Before Taylor got her shot at the next level, she decided to get married.

Her first position in education was as an English teacher at Washington Union High School for a couple years. There she taught former NBA player DeShawn Stevenson. It was while she taught at Fresno High School though which helped her career take off. She started off just teaching English, but soon found her self coaching the Warriors’ softball team. From there she was moved up to assistant athletic director before moving to interim assistant principal for three quarters of her last year.

A family tie took Taylor to the west side of the valley as the associate principal of Coalinga High School. Her mother was an alumnus of the school and Taylor thought it would be interesting to work at the same high school. Taylor however, did not move all the way out to Coalinga but instead moved to Hanford. Eventually the two-hour daily commute wore her down and she applied and got the assistant principal position with Divisadero Middle School in Visalia before moving on to Woodlake High School. Soon after being hired Divisadero needed someone to take up the duties of athletic director part way through the school year. Her background in athletics made her the obvious choice.

“Being an athletic director in high school is a lot different than being one in middle school,” Taylor said. “There are a whole lot of different little elements which at the middle school level aren’t as regulated.”

Transportation and scheduling a season are some of the aspects Taylor is use to, even though high school schedules are much longer than those at the middle school level. Making sure all the forms are filled out for players in tackle football as opposed to flag football at the middle school level. Her biggest focus is keeping her student-athletes eligible, and able to play.

“We really have to tighten down and make sure the students are eligible and fall under CIF guidelines,” Taylor said.

The first task Taylor sees as a must in getting a bigger eligibility pool of players is to hire coaches who preach grades are the most important aspect of their high school career. The football team already has two assistants who played in college and are mentoring the younger players. In the days to come she hopes the message will filter down to the households.

“One way you build a program is that the parents understand academics are first and being an athlete is second,” Taylor said.

Taylor believes coaches are not only the biggest aspect in keeping players eligible, but building up a program in the first place. She hopes the right coach will persuade students at the school to join. The top goal for her is to get families from the rural areas around Woodlake to start wanting their children to be Tigers.

“Instead of a family asking me where they should send their kid to Exeter or us, I want them to know this is the place to come if you want your child in a good sport,” Taylor said.

Taylor is settled into her position at Woodlake High School, but she is not done striving. Before her career is over she plans on becoming a compliance coordinator for a junior college or university.

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