Ned Sparks Steps Down as Executive Director of the MPSSAA
After 34 years of being one of Maryland's most important figures in high school interscholastic athletics, Ned Sparks has decided to retire. Today is Sparks's final day.
"Obviously there comes a time in your life when you need to take stock of where you are, where your family is, and what you want to have time to do when you finish your formal work," said Sparks. "I just felt that this was a good time for me to make that step, so I pulled the trigger."
Prior to working for the MPSSAA, the suburban DC native worked at Howard High School where he taught social studies. Sparks also coached both football and wrestling, and was the school's athletic director. After taking the job with the MPSSAA, Sparks led the MPSSAA through a period in which everything about interscholastic athletics changed.
"When I first started, it was just me and a secretary. I was reading the job description a little while ago and I think my predecessor told me it would be great if I could be in the office two or three times a week. That is sort of laughable at this point," said Sparks. "There is so much more accountability now, so much more complexity to everything that takes place. Obviously our staff has grown and they have made a lot of contributions to the association. It has been an evolving organization, just like everything else has over the past 34 years."
Sparks has not limited his impact on high school athletics to the state of Maryland. He also worked as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Federation of High School Associations. Sparks also led the NFHS's competitions committee, and also worked for its strategic planning committee.
For Sparks, the thing he is most proud of is the MPSSAA's ability to provide the stage for young athletes to compete at a high level, and create priceless memories.
"The thing that is probably overriding all of it is that we have seen a growth in the opportunities for students- the number of kids that have been involved in and the number of sports we have expanded to. The fact that we have done our best to give them a first class experience as they compete for state championships is something I am proud of," said Sparks. "I was just speaking with a young lady yesterday who played in our state championships, played in college, and still remembers the excitement of being a high school athlete involved in the MPSSAA playoffs. Those types of memories that you have helped give to people gives you a certain satisfaction, knowing that you helped create something that is important in their life."
For the MPSSAA, it has taken a few months to find Sparks's replacement. Starting tomorrow it will be Andy Warner, Sparks's assistant since 2006, who will be taking over as the governing body's Executive Director.
"Over the past couple years, Andy has taken on more responsibility, as well as more leadership, within the association. He brings a maturity to the role, and he certainly has a passion for the job. I don't think there is anyone who could have had a better history, or working knowledge, of what goes on and the different complexities of the job," said Sparks. "He will be starting at the point that I am leaving it off at, and he can only take it further. I'm looking forward to coming back in a few years and seeing how far he has taken the association. That will make me proud."
Looking ahead, Sparks is excited for retirement. He does still plan to be involved with youth athletics, though in a voluntary capacity.
"I don't think you can do anything for practically a lifetime and then walk away from it completely," said Sparks. "I hope to do some things, obviously not on a full time basis. I would like to stay involved with young people- involvement with young people keeps you young and plus, I enjoy it. If you can make the slight bit of difference in somebody's life, I think that contributes to what you have done for the greater part of your life."
|July 31st, 2015||By: Wick Eisenberg|