Hear from Philip Duplantis on the challenges that persist for ADs across the country, how he attacks every day and what he sees for the future of the position.

Thomas County Central High School (GA) Athletic Director Philip Duplantis is no stranger to the expectations that come with high-level high school athletics.

Thomas County Central is fresh off an undefeated, 15-win season en route to the Georgia 6A state football title. They recently broke ground on a new 110,000-square-foot space, slated to be used as an indoor facility, locker room, weight room and so much more. 

The buzz around the athletic department is so palpable that it’s not uncommon to have daily visits from SEC coaches arriving by helicopter.

If you didn’t know any better, it might sound like the 6A Georgia powerhouse operates closer to a premier college department than that of a typical high school. Even so, Duplantis believes that some of the same challenges persist for ADs across the country, no matter the level or location.

Communication, leadership and organization are all hallmarks of a successful athletic director. And budget concerns, scheduling conflicts and administrative duties are the things that keep them up at night. How does someone like Duplantis overcome it all? Take it one day at a time.

“I never let the day get too big,” Duplantis said. “I think one of the most important things is organization. I never let the day get too big…You hear about successful people in the military and athletics, and what do they focus on? It’s a seize-the-day mentality.”

The Evolution of the Modern Athletic Director

Duplantis is quick to admit he has plenty of support in his role, ranging from a dedicated assistant to the principal at the middle school. But an athletic director’s job is never easy and seems to have an ever-growing list of responsibilities.

Athletic directors are used to handling traditional tasks like managing a roster of coaches and scheduling. But now with the emergence of social media, name image and likeness (NIL) and a growing transfer culture, at times it feels like a whole new ballgame. 

“Everything started morphing to be what an athletic director is today around six to eight years ago,” he said. “For example, it’s very hard now for a head football coach, basketball coach, or baseball coach to also be the AD. There are a ton of checks and balances.”

Even with all the new aspects that are tied to modern athletic directors, some things never change. Athletic departments are a people-based business. It’s all about doing everything you can for your coaches and your student-athletes.

“What I would’ve told myself three years ago is that you’re going to have the same problems and issues over and over again just in a different facet because you’re dealing with human beings,” he said. “My job is to make sure the student-athlete is cared for, and that they’re maturing and able to have a lifelong great attitude for becoming a productive citizen.”

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

No one can predict the exact future of high school athletics. But Duplantis feels confident that, at least for his school, the addition of new sports, rising costs of budgets and increased travel will be top of mind. He predicts that in the next decade, Thomas County Central will add a few new sports. He also noted that because schools in his area have fluctuating enrollment numbers, it could lead to longer travel times for his department’s sports teams.

No matter what the future holds for the high school athletic director position, Duplantis believes success will always be measured by good communication and a passion for helping young people.

“In a nutshell, it’s all about getting to know people, communicating and understanding that all of you want the same thing,” Duplantis said. “What’s that? To have a great product. To have great kids who will represent us and have a wonderful life outside of athletics because of the things they learned.”

To learn more about the top-of-mind topics for athletic directors, check out Duplantis’s appearance on the Educational AD podcast and our interview with Centennial Public Schools AD Jenny Wagner.