After a year as the Mingus Union High School athletic director, boys basketball coach Mark Owens stepped down as AD, choosing to work more closely with the student-athletes.
"First and foremost I enjoyed my time as the athletic director at Mingus Union High School, but unfortunately the position was being restructured in a way that would not allow me to continue to lead our athletic department, as well as coach here at Mingus," Owens said. "At this point in time, I chose working with our student-athletes."
Owens, while serving as AD and a coach, is a teacher, department chair for the history department and an instructional coach for three departments, in addition to running the Northern Arizona Basketball Academy, "a basketball grassroots organization here in the Verde Valley."
"It was a wild but enjoyable ride," Owens said.
During his tenure as AD, Owens saw first-hand the reputation of excellence that Mingus Union athletics has built. This included multiple sports playing in the respective state playoffs and some of those sports bringing trophies back to Cottonwood. While those are some of the more memorable experiences, he enjoyed all aspects of working with the different sports, and supporting them on game-days.
"Sitting in dugouts, riding the bus and being in the locker room with our teams, and coaches, were some of the best experiences I have ever had professionally," Owens said. "Witnessing two state titles for the girls track program and a state runner-up in girls soccer and girls cross country were three humbling and thankful experiences I was able to have as an athletic director."
Along with his interactions and experiences with the student-athletes and coaches, Owens helped build the economic structure of Mingus Union athletics, which in turn benefitted the students with new uniforms and equipment.
"In my tenure as athletic director I wanted to make sure that I was not only visible but interactive with our coaches and student-athletes," Owens said. "In addition to that we were able to do many things financially that most school districts were not able to do during these tough economic times. Seeing the excitement of our student-athletes when they get new uniforms and equipment was just awesome and to know I was part of that was an unbelievable feeling."
While working as both a coach and AD gave Owens a different perspective of how athletic departments work, and helped him in other ways as well. One of the ways Owens felt working both jobs helped him was that he became a better leader and follower.
"Simultaneously being a varsity coach and an athletic director made me a better follower as well as a leader," Owens said. "Having the opportunity to roll up my sleeves with my athletic department was a humbling and beneficial experience. It allowed me to not only have a leadership position but to also stay grounded and not forgot what it was like to be a coach."
Even though Owens would have preferred to continue to do both jobs for "many, many years to come," he is still grateful for the time and experiences he had during his time as AD.
I had all intentions of working at Mingus Union in an administrative role for many, many years to come," Owens said. "To be an athletic director at a 4A school with a great athletic tradition was a blessing and a phenomenal opportunity and experience."