James Wood hires Sullivan as coordinator of student activities

62aa68e68680c.imageBrian Sullivan has carved out a special place in history as James Wood’s boys’ soccer coach, and now he’ll look to do so as James Wood’s new coordinator of student activities.

Sullivan’s hiring was approved during the closed session of Tuesday night’s special meeting of the Frederick County School Board. The 32-year-old Sullivan is a 10-year employee of James Wood and is in the finishing stages of his first year as an assistant CSA to Craig Woshner, who is retiring after 19 years as the school’s head CSA. The only person to lead a Frederick County boys’ soccer team to a regional title, Sullivan will begin his new job on July 1.

A native of Pittsburgh, Sullivan was hired as a math teacher by James Wood for the 2012-13 school year after earning his bachelor’s degree in 2011 and his master’s degree in 2012 from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. Sullivan has spent much of his time at James Wood coaching soccer (eight years as a head coach, two as an assistant) and basketball (eight years as an assistant). But he’s always appreciated the entire athletic experience at James Wood.

“I’m a regular at a lot of the football games, and volleyball, and baseball, and all of our sports here,” said Sullivan in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I’ve just really taken an interest in watching all the teams develop and have supported them. When you teach the kids in school and you have them in class, and you see them on the athletic field or court, it’s really inspirational to see them get better and be successful, whether that was on the court or in the classroom.

“This is certainly a bigger jump in leadership for me, and I’m looking forward to taking what Craig’s done over the last 19 years and continuing that, because we’re doing really well across the board in a lot of our sports.”

Sullivan was one of more than a dozen people who applied for the job and one of three who were interviewed.

In a phone interview, James Wood principal Sam Gross said the hiring committee certainly took note of Sullivan’s history and knowledge of the school and community.

“He’s been able to work firsthand with lots of our coaches and parents,” Gross said. “He has a sense for what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Gross said James Wood also took note of Sullivan’s diligence to gain more experience and knowledge over the years. Gross — who came to James Wood in 2017 for the principal job — said Sullivan’s interest in athletic administration has been known for a long time through his pursuit of things like a master’s degree in school administration. Frederick County added a second assistant CSA position for each high school in 2021-22, and James Wood felt Sullivan would handle that role well.

“He jumped in and did a really solid job,” Gross said. “Craig was able to trust him with several of the things that Craig usually takes care of himself. Whether it was event coverage, or an office task, we felt quite comfortable with him doing those things.”

Sullivan will step down as soccer coach after taking the Colonels to unprecedented heights.

After four losing seasons from 2015-18, Sullivan earned Winchester Star Coach of the Year honors after a 10-6-1 season in 2019. The 2021 team set a school record for wins (15-1), won the region title, and earned the first state tournament berth in Frederick County history. James Wood fell in the state semifinals to Jefferson Forest in a penalty-kick shootout. This year’s team went 11-7-2 and returned to the Region 4C tournament, where the Colonels lost in the semifinals.

Sullivan guided the Colonels to another successful season while also helping out James Wood’s entire athletic department.

“I’ve been making sure I’m helping out with all the sports and learning the ins-and-outs of what the day-to-day job would be,” Sullivan said. “Craig did a really good job of teaching me everything that he knows over the past year. It’s been helpful and very beneficial to learn from him. He would give me step-by-step instructions on a lot of stuff.”

In his new role, Sullivan doesn’t plan on doing anything dramatic, because things couldn’t be going much better for James Wood athletics right now. In addition to the success of the boys’ soccer team in 2021-22, the baseball team set a school record for wins, won the Region 4C title and reached its first state championship game since 1985; the football team earned its playoff berth since 2014 and won its most games since 2009; the boys’ cross country team won its fourth straight Class 4 Northwestern District title and advanced to its third straight state meet; the girls’ cross country team won its first district title since 2002; the boys’ swimming team had its highest-ever regional finish (second); the girls’ swimming team placed 10th in the state; the girls’ soccer team won the district regular-season title; and the softball team won the district tournament title.

“I’d like to think I’m a personable guy that can get along with a lot of the coaches,” Sullivan said. “Even though I’m in a leadership role, I’m in a support role as well, making sure that I can support the coaches and support all our activities here as much as possible. A lot in this role has to do with school spirit and camaraderie and just collaborating with colleagues and coaches and how we can continue to improve the athletic experience at James Wood. That’s what I’m going to try and continue doing.”

Though Sullivan is excited about the future, it will be difficult for him to step away from coaching soccer. Sullivan’s career record was 57-57-8, but his record over the last three seasons is 36-14-3. Sullivan’s record would be even better if the 2020 season hadn’t been canceled by COVID-19 — James Wood figured to be a state title contender based on its talent — and the 2021 team would have earned a lot more wins if the regular season was its normal 16 games instead of 10.

Sullivan is extremely proud of what the 2021 team accomplished, but he has plenty of admiration for this year’s team. Given that Tristan Obert played sparingly this year, the Colonels essentially had to replace four players who combined for more than 50 goals and 40 assists, yet they scrapped their way to another region berth and shut out 11 teams, the same number as last year to tie a school record. Sullivan noted that the 2019 team set the tone for what was to come, going 6-0-1 in one stretch after starting 3-4 and changing the way the program was viewed.

“That big win over a powerhouse Park View team for the first region championship in Frederick County history last year, that really was one of my best memories,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said the job for his replacement will be posted within the next couple of weeks.

“Not having the day-to-day interactions with the team is going to have an effect on me,” Sullivan said. “Just the growth of the program over the last eight years from when I first took over to now, we’re respected, and we’ve competed for district titles [since 2019]. We’ve really made huge strides academically, athletically and in the community.

“Those things I’ve seen us improve on over the last five or six years is something I hope to bring to the athletic department. I want to make sure all of our athletes really have a successful high school experience.”

James Wood senior midfielder Ryan King — the Class 4 Northwestern District’s Co-Player of the Year this season — said Wednesday he definitely admires Sullivan’s leadership abilities.

“He was so passionate about the soccer team, and he genuinely cared about each of his players,” King said. “He really pushed us to achieve what he knew we were capable of.”

Anyone who’s witnessed a James Wood soccer game knows that Sullivan doesn’t hesitate to sharply admonish his players. King said on Wednesday it happens at practice as well, but he always knew whatever Sullivan said came from him wanting the best for him and his teammates.

“At practice, he and I would pretty much scream at each other,” King said. “But after practice, we would always make sure we were on the same page and knew that we still loved each other.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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