Chris Tashjian, the new athletic director for Cumberland High School, is pictured on the Mendon Road campus, where he says his focus for the upcoming school year will be maintaining the blueprint that has led to so much success over recent years.
(Photos by Brendan McGair)
CUMBERLAND â€“ Following the blueprint that has churned out plenty of athletic success in recent years at Cumberland High School is the mission that new Cumberland High athletic director Chris Tashjian sees for himself during the 2014-15 interscholastic season.
â€śI believe in the philosophy that if somethingâ€™s not broken, you donâ€™t need to fix it,â€ť Tashjian said while seated behind the desk in his Wellness Center office on Wednesday afternoon. â€śI can meet the challenge and thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m not concerned about. Itâ€™s going to take me awhile to access and understand have processes work around here.â€ť
Tashjian brings a wealth of experience to his full-time post at Cumberland. Previously, the 46-year-old was an AD at a Virginia high school and an assistant AD at a Maryland school. He is familiar with the Rhode Island sports scene, having served as an athletic director for two years at Moses Brown and eight years at Rocky Hill School.
A native of Haverhill, Mass. who resides in West Warwick, Tashjian received his undergraduate degree from Salem (Mass.) State University and did his graduate work at Virginiaâ€™s George Mason University.
Tashjian understands that heâ€™s being entrusted with the stewardship of a school community that has already demonstrated a strong level of commitment to sports.
â€śYou look at the (Wellness Center) and the turf field [as part of the Tucker Field complex] and you see a town thatâ€™s very serious about athletics. My experience is mainly at the public-school level, so when I see a public school put this money into their athletic facility, thatâ€™s a program I want to be part of,â€ť Tashjian said. â€śWhen I saw this job come open, I jumped at the chance because it represented the chance to lead a successful program where the town takes a lot of stock into it.â€ť
With a group of varsity head coaches of remarkable longevity, a legion of qualified volunteer coaches, and a sounding board in just- retired Clippersâ€™ AD Frank Geiselman, Tashjian has been given the keys to a well-oiled machine.
â€śFrank put in such a great system with these coaches and trained them so well to have so much autonomy and know what to do that he must be a fabulous guy,â€ť said Tashjian. â€śHeâ€™s a 24/7 hotline and is still lending himself to help any way possible. Iâ€™m lucky in that Iâ€™m not left in a huge hole to try and figure it all out.â€ť
The department recently had a meeting for Cumberland coaches from all seasons to have the chance to meet their new overseer. Tashjian said that the first impression given by the community of Cumberland coaches is one of continuity.
â€śThereâ€™s continuity in place and with any successful program you look at, youâ€™re going to see coach- es who have stayed there for a long time,â€ť he said. â€śWhen I saw how many years some of these guys have been here ... I kind of calculated that the average lifetime for a coach here on the current staff is 12 years. Thatâ€™s amazing and helps breed success. People stay here.â€ť
What has also grabbed Tashjianâ€™s attention is the slew of booster clubs in place at Cumberland.
â€śI havenâ€™t counted them, but almost every team has one,â€ť he said. â€śThatâ€™s an area that I need to understand because my concern is that you have groups raising $20-25,000 for their programs and maybe you donâ€™t have the same type of situation with other programs.
â€śMy job is globally, not centralized with football or wrestling. I want to make sure all of our kids are getting support as everyone else and that thereâ€™s equality,â€ť Tashjian continued. â€śI have to make sure Iâ€™m not promoting one program over another. I want equity across everything.â€ť
Tashjian has set out to bridge the gap that he feels is in place for sports at the middle- and high-school levels. Presently, cross-country and soccer for boys and girls is offered at the two public middle schools, North Cumberland and McCourt. Thereâ€™s one field hockey team that is supported by the community and is available to student-athletes from both schools.
â€śItâ€™s important that you parallel in terms of feeder and high-school programs. Maybe coaches at the varsity level need to do more fundraising for the middle school programs,â€ť Tashjian suggested. â€śThere needs to be a connection.â€ť
Everything is up to speed as far as the several coaching vacancies that required Tashjianâ€™s attention. That includes the girls head soccer coaching position at McCourt that was posted last week. Tashjian plans to survey the winter coaching landscape by the end of September.
â€śItâ€™s about understanding the programs and what their needs are so I can help them,â€ť Tashjian said.