Mark Settle is used to the sight of darkness when he leaves his home to head to Eastern View High School every morning.
He’s also quite familiar with returning home to the same aesthetic.
Settle has been Eastern View’s athletic director since the school first opened its doors in 2008. He’s the second-longest tenured AD in the area—only Courtland’s Ronnie Lowman has held the position longer, having taken over the Cougars’ athletic program in 2004.
Now, as Settle prepares to begin his 12th year at the helm, he says the demands of the job are greater than ever before.
“The demands of the position never really stop,” Settle said when reached by phone while vacationing in the Carolinas last week. “I’m taking a couple weeks for [vacation] now, but as soon as I get back [home] in early-July, it’s pedal to the metal, full speed ahead for the better part of the next year.”
Indeed, Settle’s plate will begin to fill up as July progresses. The Cyclones’ field hockey team will hold a preseason camp beginning on July 29, with tryouts and practices beginning the following week. Golf, cross country, football, cheerleading and volleyball will all hit the ground running during this time period between August 1-5 as well.
What that means for Settle is that he has to make sure practice schedules are coordinated between Eastern View’s teams so they all have access to the necessary fields and facilities, ensure that those fields and facilities are playable and in proper working order, validate that all student-athletes are eligible for participation in the upcoming fall season and—perhaps most important of all—that each of them has undergone a physical examination and taken a drug test.
As the school year approaches in late-August, he’ll begin to concern himself with athletic transportation, both in terms of afterschool activity buses that shuttle student-athletes home and travel buses for transporting the Cyclones’ teams to games and competitions away from Eastern View’s campus. His focus will also shift, in part, to less obvious tasks, such as organizing the athletic booster club for the school year, determining which staff members will handle ticket duty for admission to home sporting events and scheduling officials for those events.
And oh, by the way, he’s also technically the direct supervisor and de facto sounding board for all coaches as well.
“It’s really easy to fall behind on things,” Settle said of the myriad responsibilities of his position. “You have to decide how your day is going to go and plan it out carefully, because if you do fall behind you’re constantly going to be playing catch-up. Once that happens, time will simply not allow you to make things up.”
Settle said a typical work week for him during the school year is 60 hours at a minimum. That enables him to handle all of the aforementioned tasks, as well as take any extra time necessary to handle travel issues, rescheduling games due to inclement weather, or any other potential logistical nightmares. Also, in addition to the prepping of fields and facilities for practices and events, he’s in charge of the overall maintenance of the school building and grounds and is Eastern View’s go-to-guy for the organization of pep rallies, assemblies and athletic awards banquets.
Settle provided examples of the time requirements for some of the job’s basic functions.
“It takes two to three hours, on average, to properly prepare an athletic field for a game,” he said. “For something bigger, like a Friday night football game where the field not only needs to be game-ready, but is also going to be under a lot of duress, it realistically takes two to three days to have the stadium and the playing surface properly prepared.”
There’s also the ongoing task of putting together the next school year’s schedules for all of the teams, which Settle said is impossible to generate a ballpark estimate on due to any number of factors.
In any case, it all adds up to a life that’s constantly in motion.
“I have a lot of friends and acquaintances in this field, and we all agree that a 60-plus hour work week is what it takes to be successful, period” Settle underscored. “If you put things off or try and cut corners, that’s when something goes wrong.”
Cutting corners isn’t in Settle’s DNA, however.
A 1984 graduate of Culpeper High School, Settle accrued well over a decade of combined administrative and teaching experience there prior to accepting the AD job at Eastern View. After working in the classroom for 12 years, he transitioned to an assistant principal role for his final three years at Culpeper, which he credits for preparing him to be an effective AD.
“Holding different positions within the school system, from being a teacher all the way up to an assistant principal, helped prepare me to see how high school athletics relates to the bigger picture,” he said. “In particular, my time spent as an assistant principal at [Culpeper] taught me how to properly support my teachers, coaches and, most importantly, my students.”
While becoming an AD has limited the amount of time Settle has to spend with his family, he was quick to point out how grateful he is that his two sons both attended Eastern View and played sports for the Cyclones during his tenure there.
“I was obviously able to watch my sons, Brandon and Jacob, play sports at [Eastern View],” he said. “While I always had to wear two hats when attending their games—one of a parent and the other of an AD—it was a blessing that my job enabled me to remain close to them through sports.”