Mr. John Woods to become new athletic director of Libertyville High School

On Monday, Feb. 19, the District 128 Board of Education was set to vote for approval of Mr. John Woods as the new athletic director for Libertyville High School.

Mr. Woods, who is the current athletic director of Champaign Central High School, will start his new position on July 1. On Feb. 9, The News-Gazette, the local newspaper in Champaign, Illinois, announced Mr. Woods’ impending departure from Central High School to work at LHS starting in the 2018-2019 school year.

Mr. Woods was nominated to be the state’s 2015 athletic director of the Year in Division Five and is a longtime member of the Illinois Athletic Directors Association. He has been pursued by District 128 since Mr. Briant Kelly, the previous athletic director, left office to become Associate Superintendent for D128, according to The News-Gazette.

After Mr. Kelly left the athletic director’s office last year, Mr. John Fischl and Mr. Randy Oberembt, who are both retired, took over in interim positions. It was necessary for there to be two athletic directors due to the regulations that the state of Illinois has on retired employees filling in and working for the district.

Mr. Woods said he first became aware of the open position in November 2017, which he stated had intrigued him to pursue it. After engaging in various conversations with LHS Principal Dr. Thomas Koulentes, the Assistant Athletic Director Mr. Chris Davis and Mr. Kelly, Mr. Woods decided that it was the right time to apply for the position.

In an extensive in-person interview this past weekend with Mr. Woods, he mentioned in various different ways his passion for what he called the “process” in high school athletics. The process, as he described, included having a vision, mission and core values, constantly reinforced and pursued with an attention to detail in both academic and athletic situations at a high school setting.

“[I agreed] listening to [Dr. Koulentes] talk about vision and mission and core values as not something that we write and put in a drawer, check it off the list. It is something that we do. [Our vision, mission and core values] is our North Star and that’s what drives us,” stated Mr. Woods, reflecting back on his conversation with Dr. Koulentes following his submission of his application. Mr. Woods added that the conversation and ideological agreeance between the two was what “sold [him] on Libertyville.”

As far as his future at Libertyville High School, Mr. Woods has broad goals in core values for LHS, which he intends to define with more specificity once he starts the job on July 1.

“My goal as the leader of our department as the athletic director at Libertyville High School is going to be to empower coaches to place a significant emphasis on teaching and influencing kids, not only the fundamentals and techniques of the sport, but also the why behind what we do and the how, which will be driven by the vision, mission and core values of Libertyville High School. In a nutshell, empowering coaches to forfeit the outcome and focus on the process,” Mr. Woods stated.

At Central High School, their mission is to focus on these same ideas. Mr. Woods feels very strongly that the success of a team should not stem solely, or at all, from wins and losses.

Over the last handful of years, Mr. Woods had indirectly and unintentionally learned a substantial amount about the LHS culture and community. Mr. Woods has been a member of the Illinois Athletic Directors Association for 15 years. His previous role as president of the IADA allowed him to forge a relationship with Mr. Kelly, who shared details about Libertyville. Mr. Woods described Mr. Kelly as a friend. Mr. Woods is the current Treasurer of the IADA.

I am bringing a ton of energy, a quest for knowledge, a passion for pursuing excellence and a strong desire to influence kids at Libertyville High School to value the process in their pursuit of greatness.

— Mr. John Woods

In 2015, Mr. Woods was nominated and received recognition as Division Five Athletic Director of the Year by the IADA. Mr. Woods described this experience as an incredible one due to the fact that he was nominated by his peers. Despite receiving recognition as a distinguished athletic director in the state of Illinois, he stated that in his opinion, this was not a measure of success.

Mr. Woods grew up in Champaign and attended Centennial High School. His passion for competition began while growing up in a family with four siblings and later transferred into the sports he played: football, basketball and track and field. He was a three-sport athlete throughout his four years at Centennial.

Mr. Woods continued his athletic career and devotion for sports as he attended Southern Illinois University, where he played football. Only when Mr. Woods suffered a career-ending knee injury during his junior season did he find his true passion: coaching and influencing students with disabilities through the community work his team volunteered for. After graduating in 1992 from SIU with a psychology degree, Mr. Woods attended Eastern Illinois University to receive a major in Special Education, graduating in 1995.

While Mr. Woods was a student at EIU, he commuted to Central High School and served as an assistant coach for girls basketball and girls track, then later as the head boys track coach, until he graduated. After graduation, Mr. Woods was offered a special education position at St. Joseph-Ogden High School in St. Joseph, Illinois. During his two years he spent at SJOHS, he coached girls volleyball, girls basketball and both boys and girls track.

After working at SJOHS, Mr. Woods returned to Central, first as a boys basketball assistant coach, as well as boys golf head coach and later as a special education teacher. In 2003, Mr. Woods was named the athletic director at Central High School, where he will work until the end of the current school year.

Central High School, located in Champaign, is down the road from the University of Illinois. It has about 1,300 students with about a 90-95 percent activity participation rate, according to Mr. Woods. Central is similar to LHS in activity participation rates; however, LHS has about 600 more students than Central. Furthermore, there is no majority race at Central High School, whereas Libertyville’s student population is predominantly white.

Mr. Woods will also have a change in responsibilities when he starts at Libertyville; he will be able to focus solely on athletics, something that will be different than his time spent at Central High School. At CHS, Mr. Woods was the administrator for special education and administrator on the problem-solving team, an evaluator of 16 teachers, while overseeing the grounds and facilities as well as the custodians.

Having worked at Central High School for 23 years, Mr. Woods expressed that it would be a change, but shared his own insight from looking at the outside of Libertyville High School. He described LHS as a “magnet” which coaches are attracted to the “culture in Libertyville that people want to be a part of and remain a part of until they retire.”

“I am bringing a ton of energy, a quest for knowledge, a passion for pursuing excellence and a strong desire to influence kids at Libertyville High School to value the process in their pursuit of greatness,” Mr. Woods said when asked for one statement about his future at LHS.