When Justin Kirkland was recently named the new Athletic Director at Bluestone High School, he had a vision for what he wanted to do. Kirkland is a 2005 graduate of Bluestone High School and he has been teaching at his alma mater for ten years now, so the passion to make Bluestone Athletics the best it can be is very high on his list.
After Kirkland graduated from Bluestone in 2005, he attended James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in English. Upon graduation in 2009, Kirkland returned home to Boydton where he applied for an english position at Bluestone. There were no open english positions at that time, but he was offered to come back and interview for an open position as a Photojournalism teacher. He was offered that position, and for three and a half years he was the photojournalism teacher at Bluestone. When one of the english teachers retired, he was then offered the position and has been in that position for the past 7 years. Kirkland currently teaches 10th grade honors english, 11th grade english and 11th grade AP english.
Prior to being named AD, Kirkland was very active with coaching and helping in many other ways at Bluestone. He was the head JV girls basketball coach, assistant varsity girls basketball coach, coached the scholastic bowl and forensic teams, helped with the football team and was an assistant girls soccer coach at Bluestone Middle. He also helped do video for the football team as well as announced for almost every team at Bluestone over his 10 years at the school.
home is extremely important. There are some late nights and early mornings for student athletes, and at the high school level, parents are a big part of their success. Kirkland knows that without their love and dedication, none of this would be possible. He stresses the importance of communication from everyone to help make Bluestone athletics the best it can be. He says that any parent or player that has any ideas or ways to make things better, that he will be available to them. He believes that input from everyone is the best way forward.
The Athletic Director position was moved back to a part time position this year, so Kirkland admits that he was skeptical at first to apply for the position. He mentioned the time consumption that being a teacher entails, and when adding the AD duties to that, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to juggle everything. Kirkland took some time to think about it, and decided that he wanted to apply for the kids, he said that being able to be more involved with them was what ultimately made him to decide to apply for the position. He was recommended to the school board by the faculty at Bluestone, and on September 15 he was named the new Athletic Director at Bluestone, and hit the ground running on day one.
When speaking about long term goals that he has as Athletic Director, Kirkland mentions something that he has already started working on. Creating a comprehensive athletics policy for all Bluestone athletes, coaches, parents and the public. He says that this would be like a handbook or workbook that would be available that would include things similar to expectations for all athletes along with the coaches, and parents. He says that he is using a template from Loudon County as a guide to get started.
One of Kirkland’s main goals to start is to fill all of the open positions that are currently not filled. In just over a month he says that he has interviewed 15 people already, with more inter- views scheduled for the near future. Kirkland says that for some positions he has had to go out and actively recruit to find candidates that will fit some of these positions, and he hopes that after he fills these positions and establishes himself, that he will have to start turning down people instead of going out to find them. Another short term goal that Kirkland has is to be able to field JV teams for all sports. Several teams were without them, and he hopes to be able to garner enough interest to be able to complete this goal. Kirkland has also implemented social media into the Bluestone Athletics program and he hopes this will also be able to drum up interest in the community and within the school. Blue-stone Athletics has had a Facebook page for a while, but there were only occasional posts on there and lacked information for certain things. Kirkland has taken this account over, as well as created Instagram and Twitter accounts for Bluestone Sports. He feels that in today’s digital world, students and parents both rely on these social media pages and applications to get their information. While Kirkland admits doing radio commercials and posting in the newspaper is fine, it is the digital footprint that is the main focus. He constantly updates the pages with information, times and locations for each sport for the week. “I don’t want anyone to not come to a Bluestone athletic event because they did not know it was happening.” Kirkland says. He says that he has noticed that the best way to reach students is through Instagram, the parents through Facebook and Twitter is used to update scores as well as communicate with other schools and see how their teams are faring. Kirkland also uses these social media pages to provide real time scoring updates for all events going on at Bluestone. He says that this helps keeps fans engaged even if they are unable to attend the event, or if the game is on the road. Kirkland attends all home events and provides those updates himself, but mentioned that he has volleyball parents text him updates in real time for away events that he is unable to attend, and Kirkland will in turn update the social media pages. He says that he hopes that he will have parents as helpful as those with volleyball, continue to help him provide these updates through-out the year, especially when basketball, base- ball and softball begins when there are multiple games going on at the same time at home and away. In the case that he is not able to find this, he is already thinking of ways to get the scores in real time so that no parent or fan will have to go without knowing for long.
Kirkland also says that parents are one of the biggest keys to making Bluestone athletics succeed. He says that their dedication getting the kids to practice, picking them up, and making sure they are handling everything at school and home is extremely important. There are some late nights and early mornings for student athletes, and at the high school level, parents are a big part of their success. Kirkland knows that without their love and dedication, none of this would be possible. He stresses the importance of communication from everyone to help make Bluestone athletics the best it can be. He says that any parent or player that has any ideas or ways to make things better, that he will be available to them. He believes that input from everyone is the best way forward.
He believes that one of the ultimate keys to success in every sport at Bluestone is positivity. Kirkland says that he wants to establish a culture of positivity with Bluestone athletes, coaches and families. Kirkland says that negativity is contagious, and that if one player or coach exhibits this, it can bring an entire team down. This would help bring success to Bluestone teams, which would in turn get the community support behind them. He stresses that positivity is the way to do this, and that no matter what happens, stay focused, stay positive and keep moving forward. “Positivity is my main goal as athletic director.” Kirkland adds.
Kirkland also mentioned recent district, regional and state meetings that he has had with other athletic directors, and how it has been a big help in being able to network and speak to other AD’s that have been doing this for a while. He has been able to learn how other schools do things, and been able to pick some of their brains about their operations, and bounce ideas off of them. Kirkland says that the district athletic director meetings are once a month, so he will be able to establish close relationships with those and really learn a lot from them.
Kirkland’s ties to Bluestone go back almost 40 years when you consider family members attending the school, and his passion for Blue-stone shows with every word he speaks about the school, and the children that he has taught, coached or is currently teaching. When it comes to passion for Bluestone High School, Justin Kirkland is going to be at the top of nearly every list.