Carole Crighton is the newly titled athletics operations coordinator at the Wesleyan School, although she has been doing the same job for the past 14 years at the Norcross private school.
The University of Georgia graduate's daughter, Amanda, and son, Adam, both played sports for the Wolves and Crighton has seen the school move from its origins in Sandy Springs to trailers to its current sprawling campus.
In this installment of "Getting to Know..." staff writer Ben Beitzel talks with Crighton about watching Wesleyan grow, her love of basketball, the usefulness of technology, a Christmas hint and girls basketball coach Jan Azar's Jolly Rancher obsession.
BB: How does one become an athletics operations coordinator?
CC: It started out as what was supposed to be three hours a day, a part-time job. It never was that. It was a full-time job. We did not have much over (at the current Wesleyan site). We had an athletic director but he was young and we really needed someone to put in the work to get (the school into the GHSA from GISA). As a parent who volunteers here a lot, if you volunteer a lot sometimes you end up working here. I did not intend for it to be 14 years, but I love it.
BB: What all do you do?
CC: I do a little bit of everything. I maintain the website. The thing I do that I love to do is keep the books for the varsity basketball teams. I travel with the girls team. No one has ever kept the books here as a permanent bookkeeper except for me. I do scheduling, officials, reserving spaces, the gyms and the fields. I am the person who deals with Georgia High School (Association) as far as eligibility and hardships. I have a great relationship with them. The website takes a lot of work. I try to keep it really current. I work on it every day.
I have been here so long that people ask me about everything. I am sort of the mother of the coaches. I have been watching us since Jan (Azar's) first team went 4-13 to winning seven state championships.
BB: When you got the new title last year, nothing really changed for you. How did you keep getting signed up to do this?
CC: I was always at the games (when my kids were playing). I am pretty knowledgeable about sports and (Headmaster) Zach (Young) knew that. I pretty much did the job at the beginning. No one really knew what to call me. On the door it would say, Athletic Office, Carole Crighton. It became Athletic Assistant and now I am the Athletic Operations Coordinator.
BB: So this was not an evolving process that began 14 years ago. That became eight hours a day?
CC: (It started) more than eight hours. Nobody told me, 'We want you to be here and do this.' I am going to be here because we all want to make sure anything athletically is running smoothly. None of us understood what the job would mean. Once we joined Georgia High School, it became a big job for two people to do. The next fall I was given a contract. I thought it was funny that (Young) even wanted to pay me until I realized what I was going to be doing. It was a little hard when my kids were playing and I wanted to watch them, but it worked out.
BB: You do the basketball book on top of your other duties, what is it about basketball?
CC: Basketball is my favorite sport. It's my favorite sport to watch. Zillions of years ago I played, but it was not the sport it is today. When my daughter started playing AAU, that's when I got into it. I started keeping the book because I would get so nervous when my kids were playing. I didn't want to be one of the other parents that would yell out. It kept me quiet. I love organization. It's kind of a puzzle. I just love to do it. I really don't know why I keep traveling. We have great girls on the basketball team. They are fun to be around. I feel like I am part of the success. Plus someone has to be here to keep Jan's Jolly Ranchers.
BB: I was going to get to that. What is that about? I see the big bag on the table during games.
CC: I have this wolf in my office. The kids come in and get animal crackers and Jolly Ranchers. The wolf is like a cookie jar. It howls when you open it, but I had to take the batteries out to stop that. Jan would come in and pick out the watermelon Jolly Ranchers and if they were all gone, Jan still wanted her watermelon Jolly Ranchers. I order them off the internet now. I order boxes of them.
BB: So it's not just an in-game thing?
CC: She eats them during the day, but not like she does during the game. I can always tell what kind of mood she is in by how many Jolly Ranchers she eats during a game.
BB: So what's the average?
CC: She might eat nine or 10. Not that many. She doesn't like it if, for some reason, I didn't bring enough and we run out. It's a good luck kind of thing.
BB: You lived in Cincinnati for 17 years before moving back to Georgia. Atlanta had to seem foreign.
CC: Georgia 400 wasn't even there when we left. We were young with no kids. It was exciting moving. It was crazy (when we got back). We had never heard of Wesleyan and really thought our kids would go to St. Pius or Marist. (Getting into those schools) was a mess and we ended up going to St. Martin's, which was our church. Amanda wanted to go to Wesleyan in the ninth grade. It was still in Sandy Springs then. We decided to give it a try for one year and it was the right thing to do. It's a wonderful school. We are glad that we took that leap of faith.
BB: Not a bad call for a teenager to pick Wesleyan. I guess it paid off.
CC: It did. She played soccer with a lot of the girls who went to Holy Innocents' and she got waitlisted there. She just got a good feeling at Wesleyan. For us it was a great move out here (for the school). I don't live but 15 minutes from here. It was a great location. I have been here since we had 16 in a graduating class, 25 the next year. I am one of the ones who was here that has really seen it become what it is.
BB: To think back to the days of trailers, does it blow your mind to look at the campus now?
CC: When I look out the window of my office and see those buildings and the common ground and I stop and take a look at it, it does blow my mind. What makes me think about it is when someone comes here from another area that has never been here before. A coach from FSU came and that coach just stood there in awe. He said, 'This is nicer than most of the college campuses I have been on.' My first office was in a trailer, in a corner of the teachers' lounge. When I first started there was no place for me.
BB: I assume you were there when the first Wesleyan team won a state title?
CC: I wasn't there because it was tennis. It was girls tennis. That was the year, the last year, they did regular trophies (instead of cups). It was 2000, it was our first team. The next year we won three state championships. It's amazing what we do with the kids we have. That's a testament to the coaches. Plus, we are blessed with good players. But it's more than that. I remember we were down in Macon for the state championships and the guy at the door thought our basketball players were the cheerleaders, even though they had on their basketball uniforms.
BB: Other than Wesleyan, what are your other teams?
CC: My teams are kind of weird. Football, it's got to be Georgia. For men's basketball it's Cincinnati. I love the Bearcats. For women's basketball, any of the SEC teams and I'll definitely be rooting for Wake Forest (and Wesleyan grad Erin Hall). That gives me reason to watch them even more. I do not watch professional sports.
BB: Is any part of your day not sports related?
CC: If I am not going to one of our games, I am probably watching sports if it's on TV. I love to read. I got a Kindle for Christmas. I don't get a chance to read that much except in the summer. I probably read 30 books or so in the summer.
BB: Do you like your Kindle?
CC: I love my Kindle. I read "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," then immediately got the next one. I downloaded and read it. I am not a technology nut, but I do love my iPhone. I am hoping for an iPad for Christmas. I love Scrabble. I love words.