The Ex-Ex

Steve Kenn beach

This is my favorite photo of the summer. I took it during our family’s week at Sunset Beach. The Ex-Ex and Mlle Adorable reading. Here’s another–

steve and kenn reading home

He doesn’t know I am writing this. (I guess I will find out if he reads the blog, n’est-ce pas?) The Ex-Ex and I have known each other since the fall of 1981, his first year at DA and my second. Our first date was to a friend/colleague’s 30th birthday party. This friend just retired. We have known each other for almost 37 years. Wow. We have two amazing children. And, as you can see, an adorable granddaughter. We’ve been through some tough times– the deaths of all of our  grandparents, both of our dads, the separation and divorce. Times we would rather forget sometimes. However, I tell myself that even those tough times, maybe especially those tough times, have made us who we are today. I admire the Ex-Ex. I am sure that I do not tell him this often enough. He is an amazing father and role model. He is so conscientious and caring. You can see how much he loves our darling girl. He is the hardest working person I know. When he speaks, people listen. He prefers to stay out of the limelight, being the introvert that he is. It has taken me many years to even partially understand that. But even introverts must endure accolades sometimes.

steve award

The Ex-Ex was honored this summer by the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association. He had no idea that this was happening. I was in on it because I was asked to send some anecdotes to be read during the award presentation at the annual conference of athletic directors and trainers. Son #1, Son #2 and I managed to keep it a secret. I had several nightmares leading up to the event– I accidentally told him, I got lost on the way to Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the event was held, etc. But we pulled it off. I arrived at the Speedway a little bit early and was sequestered away in an office, one floor below the meeting space. While I was waiting with the AD in charge of the award (a very nice guy!) and another longtime friend who is involved with the NCISAA and whose dad the award is named for, the Ex-Ex called me to tell me that the power had gone off, to ask about the weather at home, told me about the workshop so far. Too funny. I finally got him off the phone and got ready to go upstairs and stand in the back of the room so that he could not see me. After he walked up to the front of the room to accept the ward and make a short speech, he spotted me. Surprise! He joined this cast of characters, longtime colleagues and friends of his as the 2018 recipient.

Steve and the guys

Here is the text of the presentation (many thanks to Grant Coffey for handing over his script):

The Charles N. Carter Athletic Director Cup

The Charles N. Carter Athletic Director Cup is given in honor of Chuck Carter who served as the first Executive Director of the NCISAA. Chuck was the Director of Athletics at Asheville School from 1967 to 2007. During his tenure, he expanded the program from 10 teams to 28 interscholastic teams.

Chuck was instrumental in the existence and formation of the NCISAA. We are benefactors of the time and effort that he devoted to the state association. He served as President of the NCISAA from 1985 to 2001 while continuing to serve as the AD at Asheville School.

Chuck Carter spent 30 years at the helm of the NCISAA. During his time, the number of member schools tripled. The state association expanded it championships from 7 tournaments to 17 tournaments. Not only did the NCISAA grow in number, but also in stature and reputation. One North Carolina Education Executive said of him, “I know of no one single person who has done more for private schools in this state than Chuck Carter.”

In the spring of 2015, Chuck Carter retired as the Executive Director of the NCISAA, The NCISAA Awards Committee, in conjunction with Matt Gossage, the President of the NCISAA Board of Directors, decided to establish this award to honor the legacy of Chuck Carter and to recognize the outstanding dedication of Athletic Directors to the NCISAA, local conferences, and individual schools.

Previous recipients of this award are Ned Gonet of Ravenscroft School, Freddie Johnson from Greensboro Day School, Steve Lykins from North Raleigh Christian, and last year’s recipient, Mr. Chip Bishop from Fayetteville Academy. Would you gentlemen join me for the presentation?

This year’s recipient has invested his time, care, thought, sweat, and wisdom in his school, its coaches, and most importantly- its student athletes for 38 years (that’s 114 sport seasons).

His Head of School said, “I am particularly grateful for his friendship and guidance to me as a new teacher in the early 1990’s- including the year I spent as his assistant coach on the varsity basketball team (my primary job was reducing the number of technicals he earned that year). In the 3 decades since, I have watched him help scores of teachers, coaches, and administrators with his wise mentorship and understated leadership. He strikes the proper balance between inclusive recreation and competitive excellence. He strives for equity between boys and girls sports, between higher and lower profile programs. He takes a keen interest in individual students, but always sees the long range interests of the school. He deserves this highest of honors for his unique combination of humility, hard work, and practical wisdom. He is one of the most effective servant-leaders at our school.”

Like most of his contemporaries, he worked double and even triple duty combining coaching and teaching with his AD responsibilities. He has taught Middle and Upper School PE, advised groups of students during their 4 years in Upper School, and coached Varsity Boys Basketball and Varsity Girls Softball. He has supervised nearly 2,000 varsity and JV teams; organized tens of thousands of athletic contests, officials, and uniforms. He has handled thousands of challenging conversations, thousand of parental complaints, thousands of rain outs and rescheduling of events. With the last Spring Season, add hundreds more to that count! He shows us by example that nearly any problem can be solved with patience and hard work. Through it all, his professionalism and diligence have made him the bedrock of his athletic program.

Speaking of Bedrock, the Flintstones… Old Cavemen, his fellow TISAC AD’s commented, “We have worked with him for 30 plus years. His professionalism, experience, and dedication rival any other Athletic Administrator. He is a consummate AD and we hold him in high regard. He is a thoughtful administrator who always welcomes collaboration from everyone and often is the one who provides suggestions and solutions that directly benefit all of our student-athletes. He has accepted various roles over the years at the conference and state level and executed the task at hand with a high degree of professionalism and efficiency. He is a deep thinker and asks the tough and engaging questions that are always in the best interest of the student-athletes across the state. He is a great colleague and an even better friend.”

He served the NCISAA and its member schools for over a decade as a member of the NCISAA Board of Managers. Chuck Carter, former NCISAA Executive Director, said of him, “True to his Germanic forbearers, he is a man who pays attention to detail. He has been invaluable to the NCISAA over his many years of service. He could always be counted on to plan and host our events.

He headed a group of coaches and represented a school that could always be counted on to do all things NCISAA according to both the spirit and letter of our regulations. As a result, they remain, in my mind, one of the best examples of Sportsmanship, Integrity, and Fair Play in our association.”

Homar Ramirez, current NCISAA Executive Director, says, “Not only is he thorough and detailed, but he is always willing to provide historical context and perspective. I appreciate his calming demeanor regardless the situation. He has no problem being direct, but always maintains a level of professionalism. His dedication to his school and the NCISAA makes him a worthy recipient of this award.”

One of the most important components of a successful AD is the support of their family. The job requires a lot from the person doing the job, and a lot of understanding from a family. His family gets it and has joined him in the crazy journey of the life of an Athletic Director.

His wife fondly remembers spending Friday nights in the gym working at the admissions table. She was actually in labor during the first game of the season in 1987. The next day, after his son was born, she gladly excused him from the hospital to go to practice. She says, “My husband is the hardest working person I know. I think he is the best Athletic Director in North Carolina. I do get a laugh out of the stories he now tells about Freddie, Ned, and him at conferences, attempting to learn new technology and ways of doing things that they have been doing for 30 plus years. Where are their glasses? Can they read the screen? Can they even hear what is being said?”

Since the school has renovated and upgraded the athletic building, his sister often comments that he is with his girlfriend, Kirby, Kirby Gym. That is his home away from home!

I am not sure if he did something right or wrong as a dad, but one of his sons has followed in his footsteps as an AD. His son, Jake, says, “My father has been one of my role models ever since I was little and would help him take up money at state tournament events. When I was 9 or 10, I knew I wanted to do exactly what my dad did for a living. His response was always the same, Are you sure?, with a half kidding look on his face. Even today, when I tell him about things going on at my school, I usually still get a, Are you sure?

I have always tried to live up to his standards, which to me, are out of this world. There are stories after stories about the crazy things my dad had to do or fires he had to put out. The amazing part to me is that things always got done. The fires never burned anything down and he always seemed ready to fire fight the next day! I am proud to have attempted to follow in his foot steps. I know it’s a tall task I’m attempting, but even if I get close, I know it will be so much better than most. He’s my hero in every sense of the word. With every award and honor he achieves, it is validation that I have the best role model and guide to help me navigate my own career. For that, I will always be forever thankful.”

I believe that he epitomizes all that is good, decent, and right about high school athletics and the NCISAA. We would all do well to do our jobs like this year’s Chuck Carter Cup Award winner, Mr. Steve Engebretsen.

steve and me

Bon appétit and bravo to the Ex-Ex. I hope that, for the most part, I have been a supportive partner all these years. I admire him more than he knows. I promise to do a better job of showing it in the future. Dear readers, tell people that you appreciate them. You might just make their day. 


2 thoughts on “The Ex-Ex

  1. Gary

    I am very blessed to know you, work with you and to call you friend. You make not only DA, but the world a better place. Much love and respect for you always!!


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