- Associated Press - Sunday, June 29, 2014

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Outgoing Norman North principal Bryan Young didn’t want to answer the question, but he finally got to bed at about 3:30 a.m. on a recent Tuesday.

He arose at 5:45.

For whatever reason, it was important to him to explain that, typically, he actually gets four hours of sleep each night rather than two and a quarter.

“I had a project,” he told The Norman Transcript (https://bit.ly/1ryRlku).

Anyway, it’s a good place to start, understanding that almost nobody can really follow his example.

They’d die of exhaustion first.

Still, his example is instructive, because for the last several years, though Frank Thompson was a fine athletic director and the coaches North has brought on have all been seemingly strong hires, and while Eddie Paul has been omnipresent as the school’s athletic coordinator, it is Young that’s been at the center of it all.

He’s been the constant.

Through some mad science of his own personal alchemy - uber-competitiveness, an inability to be casually involved (in anything), the mean trick of taking things personally without their becoming draining - North enjoyed an extra gear that probably paid off everywhere and certainly paid off in athletics.

Even down to perception.

If a coach wasn’t returning phone calls, Young saw to it they did. He understood the easiest way to lose control of the message was to disengage rather than the other way around. It remains stunning how many coaches don’t know this.

He was everywhere.

Not only at the soccer games he used to coach, but everybody else’s games, too. Further, being a quick study and an old coach, he knew North’s teams.

It’s something to think about as North goes about hiring his successor, not to mention as Norman Public Schools goes about hiring anybody in administration.

Athletic success doesn’t happen by accident, nor can coaches and their supervisors do it all by themselves, even as many may think they might.

It is - word of the day - about culture. And that begins with the running of the place.

“The principal’s the leader of the school,” Young said. “It’s very important, it’s important to a lot of kids, it’s important to the community. You have to be a leader in all aspects.”

It wasn’t so long ago Norman High coaches, should they find themselves in the principal’s office, were more likely to be defending something they told the newspaper than their lack of success on the field.

It’s not like Young was Al Davis or something - “Just win, baby” - but, on his watch, athletics were something to bring the school together and that began with running successful programs the right way.

That, by the way, began with his taking the lead in every coaching search at North. He was only one member of a committee, yes, but who do you think was driving that committee?

“You have to be committed at all of those different levels to be successful,” Young said. “You can’t do it halfway. The kids know if you say one thing and do another. They see that. It’s important to walk the walk.”

Young wrestled at OU in the late 80s. He jockeyed for a living for eight years afterward and, barring a neck injury that might have made his next fall paralyzing, might still be doing it, even at the highest level.

Say you’ve got some odd unusual career and Young’s in your foursome. By the time you’ve played 18 holes, he might know as much about what you do as you do.

Of course, it’s going to be hard for North to find a guy, or gal, like that to run its school.

But the lesson is clear.

You want great football, great basketball, strong baseball, track, golf and tennis?

The key is not finding a principal willing to leave it all to the coaches and athletic administrators. Instead, it’s in finding one who will make all of them accountable, even as he is their advocate, who has a complete and vested interest in athletic success because not only is winning more fun, but it has all kinds of things to do with unity and morale among the students, and who doesn’t see these attributes as bonuses, but intrinsic parts of a very large job?

“Athletics are about more than athletics,” Young said.

You better believe it.

___

Information from: The Norman Transcript, https://www.normantranscript.com

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