• Wells Athletic Director Given Top Honors

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    Mike Nolan with his co-workers at the OADA ceremony.

    Mike Nolan with his co-workers at the OADA ceremony.

    When Mike Nolan of Ida B. Wells High School was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Oregon Athletic Directors Association (OADA), no one was more excited than his co-workers.

    “Mike continues to work to improve all aspects of our athletic department,” said Jeremy Shetler, Wells’ head baseball coach. “His involvement goes beyond our school walls and fields. He does his best to connect with the community at large, including other youth sports organizations and Wells alumni, and he is to be commended for it.”

    Leann Van Horn, athletic assistant at Wells, agreed. “What most people don't realize is the huge amount of time Mike puts in behind the scenes to ensure our student-athletes are having the best experience possible through having programs that promote inclusivity and fun.”

    Nolan received the honor on April 17th as part of the OADA annual conference. Having first joined Portland Public Schools as a history teacher and basketball and baseball coach at Benson in 1999, he moved to what was then Wilson High School two years later. He initially served as a social studies teacher and girls’ basketball coach. Then, in 2017, he was named Wells athletic director and has made it his mission ever since to put kids first and lead with empathy and care.

    He also likes to work hand-in-hand with his coaching staff, whom he describes as the real experts. “I approach it from a collaborative standpoint,” Nolan said. “I’m just here to support and provide guidance and mentorship when needed.”

    Nolan knows first-hand the positive impacts athletics can have on the youth who participate. A native of Monroe, Oregon, he had the privilege of playing on league and state championship baseball and basketball teams in his hometown. Winning was wonderful, he said, but even more important were the life-long bonds he formed with his teammates and the lessons he learned, both on and off the field.

    “Winning was a goal but not our purpose,” he said. “We had a lot of fun together, and it was a great experience for me in that it gave me a strong foundation for the work I do now. Having had the opportunity to play high school athletics myself, I know what I need to do to make student athletes feel supported and championed.”

    Nolan credits his own personal support system – his family – with helping him thrive in his job. His two oldest daughters are PPS graduates, and his youngest child is an eighth grader at Robert Gray. Nolan is particularly grateful to his wife, Chrissy, whose sacrifices have made his work possible.

    “She has been incredible, especially with all the time I miss not being at home,” he said.

    Sports can teach young athletes many things–resilience, how to win humbly, how to lose gracefully, how to put your team ahead of yourself. It’s that final bit of wisdom that most informs Nolan’s work as an athletic director.

    “I don’t see this award as an individual honor,” he said. “I share this with my fellow coaches who do great work in the community, instilling strong values in our student athletes and bringing the best out in them. I feel lucky to be a part of it. It’s a true privilege.”