Coach Leon Hammond talks about future of CCSD Athletics | Sports | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | March 30, 2017 5:00 pm
Last Updated: March 29, 2017 at 10:34 am
By CINDY CROSBY
Newly named District Athletic Director Leon Hammond has set his sights on creating a culture of winning and excellence in academics within the Colleton County School District. Employed with the Colleton County School District since 2015 as a physical education teacher and JV basketball coach, Hammond will officially begin his new job responsibilities on July 1. Leading him to this monumental moment in his career – is the desire to see others obtain their goal.
“I was born and raised in East Cleveland, Ohio,” said Hammond. “My mother raised my two brothers and myself mostly on her own. I was the first in my household to attend college and the second in my family to obtain a bachelor’s degree. I have always worked with young adults in various capacities and have a desire to see them obtain their goals. Coach Brian White, my offensive line coach in high school, always told me to share with others the gifts and knowledge he passed on to me. I have taken those words to heart throughout my career in teaching, and that is what has driven me to this opportunity.”
Although Hammond will be working with the student-athletes within the Colleton County School District, he will strive to balance work with his growing family. “My wife serves the community of Orangeburg, where we reside, at TRMC (The Regional Medical Center),” said Hammond. “We were blessed with a baby girl, Vivian, a little over a year ago, which helped me reassess my goals and convinced me to pursue this opportunity. I’ll work as hard as I can to provide for my family and to leave a legacy they can be proud of.”
Outside of coaching, which he has done since he was 19, Hammond and his family enjoy going to movies, traveling and attending St. Paul Baptist Church in Orangeburg. “I am a fan of any movie with Denzel Washington in it,” said Hammond. “My goal is to travel somewhere new every year to see how culturally different people are. We have been trying to learn Spanish over the past year in preparation for our travels to different countries.”
The following is an in-depth look at Coach Hammond’s early plans for Colleton County Athletics:
What interested you about becoming the next district athletic director for the Colleton County School District?
It has always been my goal to obtain a position as an athletic director within a high school setting, eventually working my way into collegiate athletics. This is the first opportunity of this nature to materialize, and I was encouraged by various colleagues and members of the community to seek the position. I understand, and see firsthand, the talent to be successful exists in this school. My coaching staff and I had great success in my first year as the head JV boys basketball coach, and that extended into this second season as well.
Where did your love for sports begin and how does that contribute to your plans as the AD?
My love for sports began while watching my older brother participate in middle school football. Growing up, I wanted to mimic him athletically. I was fortunate to be part of a middle school program that never lost a game during our two years participating. In high school, we didn’t experience the same success, until coaching changes were made which impacted the “culture.” Those coaches opened our eyes to the possibilities outside of our small inner-city. The setting in East Cleveland, Ohio, varies from Walterboro, but the other similarities are identical. This is a tight-knit community that has a need and wants to support our student-athletes. Starting with me, there must be a “culture shift” within athletics. We need to become “one” from the middle school to our varsity programs. In doing so, we will strengthen the teaching and knowledge of skills to our student-athletes, putting them in better positions to compete at higher levels.
When will you officially take over the position and what transition plans are currently in place for the remainder of the school year?
As stated by the Superintendent, Dr. Foster, I will officially take over the newly created position on July 1. As for a transition period, this is something we are currently working on due to how fast things all came together. I will continue teaching my PE classes and using my free time to familiarize myself with everything as we finish the semester.
How will the student-athletes benefit from having the AD and head football positions split into two jobs?
I feel splitting the two positions will allow both myself and Coach Peeler maximum opportunity for success. It will be my duty to assist each coach from the middle school to the high school, so they can put the best product on the field. My goal is to be a strong leader and put a solid structure in place for everyone. As it relates to Coach Peeler, this allows him to focus on football and rebuilding relationships within the community.
Attendance suffered during the football season. How will you work to improve community participation and support?
First and foremost, we must get back to a tradition of winning football games and being competitive. Secondly, Coach Peeler, his staff, and myself will be embedding ourselves into the community, allowing people to get to know us and our intentions. Due to the timing of our hiring, and Coach Peeler’s current obligations, we must work even harder to get our kids ready for the upcoming season. It is my goal to drum up support from local businesses through continual dialogue and support for one another. We want to re-establish our relationship with the local Rec and little league programs because those are our future Cougars. Also, we are working on game-day promotions and activities that will increase fan participation on game days.
Transparency, open channels of communication and a network of readily-available information are all things parents and students have identified as important to them moving forward. What goals have you begun to develop for improving communication between the athletic department and the community?
It all starts with getting the athletic department to operate from the same manual so we communicate the same message. The community and its stakeholders are extended family to the athletic department. Much like family, we won’t always agree on everything, but through effective communication and trust, we have best interests ofwThe first thing we must remember is when we hire coaches, they are first hired with the mindset of being quality educators. In a perfect world, a quality educator will also have in-depth knowledge and experience coaching his/her sport. In many instances that isn’t the case; therefore, we will do due diligence when seeking out candidates to coach. I will be one member of a team responsible for bringing in quality candidates to coach our student-athletes. All coaches within the CCSD Athletic Department will receive my undying support and available resources for growth in that field.
How important is establishing a good working relationship with the Cougar Booster Club and how do you plan to work together for the betterment of the Cougar athletics?
It is essential to have a good working relationship with the Cougar Booster Club. I have already established relationships with various members during my time here. Through that experience and my volunteering at athletic events, I’ve shown them that I’m here for them. It is vital all our coaches give of their time to be a part of what initiatives the Booster club may have going on.
Initial ideals on ways to improve fundraising within the athletic department?
Over the next few weeks, I plan on making a concerted effort to reach out to previous donors and sponsors of the athletic program to introduce myself and my vision for Colleton County Athletics. Secondly, I want to connect with untapped sources and community members for potential donations and support of CCSD Athletics. Last, but not least, we have coaches who bring great ideas to the table, so I want their input on fundraising ideas we can utilize during the year as well.
Being athletic director is obviously a labor of love and extremely time-consuming. How do you intend to balance everything?
Balance is key and the primary concern other individuals within the job have forewarned me about. I need to be aware of everything that’s scheduled and have quality assistant athletic directors to support me. Running this athletic department won’t be a one-person job. I approach this with the same mindset I ask my players to approach their respective sports with: team first. I plan on being available for all sports and making an effort to attend games throughout the seasons. My wife and daughter will attend various sporting events during the year so that they can be involved with the community as well.