After a detour or two, Tom Holodak found the right road.
Now, after two decades in Texas, he's made his way to Georgia.
The new athletic director at Augusta Preparatory Day School initially was an engineering major in college, but he soon discovered that some of the courses were too tough.
"I was out of college for a short period, and my old high school coach asked if I'd ever considered becoming a teacher or coach," Holodak recalled. "I said, 'Are you crazy?,' but he told me 'You'd be pretty good at it."'
Some 25 years later, the 48-year-old was good enough to land the AD position at Augusta Prep.
Still, he didn't find it easy to leave Greenhill School in Dallas, where he had worked since 1981.
"The old cliche 'the grass isn't always greener on the other side' was a concern of mine," he said. "I really was in a very good situation where I was. It was a matter of finding the right match."
Although Augusta Prep doesn't begin classes until Aug. 20, Holodak is already settled into his office, which overlooks Prep's Boardman Gymnasium.
"I'm very, very excited," he said last week. "Everybody here is so friendly...I've hit it off well with people, and look forward to working with them. My goal is to stay here a long time, and to hopefully retire from here."
Holodak, 48, is originally from Yonkers, New York. He graduated cum laude from Manhattan College and received a masters degree from Michigan State University.
In addition to being a coach in cross country, track and basketball at Greenhill, Holodak was a physical education teacher, and was the school's assistant athletic director for nine years.
Holodak replaces Kevin Long, who had been Augusta Prep's AD for the past five years.
Long is now athletic director at Forth Worth Country Day School. Ironically, Long and his wife, Erin, wanted to live in an area that was larger than Augusta, which is exactly why Holodak decided to leave the Lone Star State.
"The Dallas-Fort Worth area was growing at such a fast pace," he said. "I've got a six-year-old and a two-year-old, and my wife and I didn't want to be in the same environment 10 years from now, with the girls growing up."
Holodak seems to have found a comfort zone at Prep, and also a place to put down stakes and raise a family - he purchased a home and a parcel of land in Edgefield, S.C., which is about as far removed from the fast lane as you can get.
The next step is to put Augusta Prep on the fast track to athletic success.
"There are teams here that have had a lot of success, so there won't need to be a lot of changes there," Holodak said. "Then there are some teams that have not fared as well, and we'll try to change that."
In addition to being athletic director, Holodak will coach Prep's track and field team next spring.
"The transition can be challenging," he said. "The first year I want to take it step by step, and maybe eventually coach both cross country and track."
Of the four rookie athletic directors at Columbia County's high schools for the 2002-03 school year, Holodak inherits the most stable situation. Augusta Christian Schools, Lakeside and Evans each dismissed an AD at some point last year, while Prep made the change without controversy.
That is a bonus for Holodak, who takes the view, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
"From what I've gathered, I would say that Kevin Long did a lot of tremendous things in a short period of time. So, I want to go with some of the things he started here," he said. "I'd be crazy to come in here and make a lot of changes initially. I'd like to take my first year to get a feel for the way things do run, then see what I can do to strengthen the program."
Encouraging students to try out for sports is one of Holodak's primary goals this year.
"Augusta Prep is quite different than what I'm used to. (At Greenhill School) we had requirements to play sports," said Holodak, who estimates about 70 percent of the pupils at Prep participate in at least one sport.
"At a school of this size, the way to have success is you've got to have the numbers, so I want to work with the coaches to entice kids to play more than one sport."
Another key to boosting the Augusta Prep program, according to Holodak, is to have strong teams at the middle school and junior varsity levels.
Facility-wise, Holodak says Augusta Prep will look to upgrade and possibly add to the Flowing Wells Road campus in the next few years.
Adding championship banners to the gym wall would be nice, but state titles aren't atop the priority list.
"Winning is very important, but I think what I want to see most from our teams is when they go on the field or on the court, they are representing Augusta Preparatory Day School well, as far as being behaved and having good sportsmanship," Holodak says.
"I think that's probably something we have, and that goes a long way to how you're respected in the community. You can have a good team out there, and win with class at the same time. If you have a winning team and no one likes you, that banner on the wall doesn't have the same meaning."
Coming Wednesday: A profile of Randy Hill, the first-year athletic director at Lakeside High School.
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