Friday, April 10, 2009

Kennebunk’s Marty Ryan to Retire
After 40-year Career in Education

By Jim Kanak
Staff Columnist

Kennebunk High School’s Marty Ryan, a local sports icon, is retiring after eight years as the Athletic Director with the Rams. His career as an educator spanned 40 years, 21 of it as a coach, teacher, and athletic director at Wells High School. The last eight have allowed Ryan to fulfill a career dream: that of being a full time athletics only athletic director.
“I had a goal to work as an athletic director in just athletics,” Ryan said. “That’s the case at Kennebunk High. It has just worked out nicely. I’ve had a very good and supportive administration and a very good, hard working staff.”
Ryan started his career as a coach and business teacher at Narragansett High School in his native Massachusetts. He coached basketball, baseball, and football there – a time consuming endeavor.
“I remember the days in coaching where there was no such thing as a microwave,” Ryan said. “When I got home at 7:30 after practice, sometimes dinners were very well done or cold. I was smart enough not to complain.”
Indeed, Ryan credits his family for offering consistent and strong support as he pursued his career. He lives in Wells with his wife, Judy. Daughter Amy lives in Nashville, where she teaches English as a second language to Somali children. Son Tim is the assistant athletic director at Bowdoin, from whence he graduated.
“I deeply appreciate the support from my family, especially my wife Judy,” Ryan said. “They’ve been very good to me.”
The Ryan’s departed Massachusetts in 1980 after a tax cap law took effect, severely impacting school budgets there. “There was a coach and business teacher opening in Wells,” said Ryan. “The following year, the athletic director position opened up and I got the job.”
Ryan combined his teaching and athletic department functions until 1987, when the AD position morphed into the Director of Student Activities. That change broadened the position’s responsibilities beyond athletics into areas like facilities and scholarship programs. With those additional responsibilities, Ryan no longer had time for teaching.
Over the course of his tenure at the Maine schools, Ryan has had a number of notable achievements. “It’s hard to pick out just one or two,” he said. “I’m proud of the state champions we had in Wells in basketball and football. We installed bleachers at the football field and the synthetic track at Forbes Field. The crown jewel was the fitness center. The community supported those and that was important. “
Of course, there are also great memories in Kennebunk. “I’m quite proud of our successes here, in lacrosse and tennis,” said Ryan. “The move to the SMAA from the Western Maine Conference was a big one. Now the kids just take it for granted but at first there was an intimidation factor. They weren’t used to playing at Biddeford or at Fitzpatrick Stadium or in Sanford. We’ve come a long way. We also had significant facility improvements. Again, the community supported them.”
Ryan noted also that the Rams have won four straight sportsmanship awards, selected by the teams KHS competes against. “No one else has won more than two,” Ryan said.
Over the course of four decades, high school sports have changed, not surprisingly. Ryan made note of some of the important things he’s seen, though he didn’t make any value judgments about them.
“The amount of involvement by parents is much greater,” he said. “They have more of a handle on the child’s development than my parents did, so they’re more involved. That becomes the greatest change. Also, there’s the influence of outside programs. The AAU and others are now quite prevalent.”
Ryan has been active in broader areas of athletic administration and has gained acknowledgement for his work. He was named the National Athletic Director of the Year in 2005 by the National Council of Secondary School Athletic Directors, the only director from New England to win the award. He was inducted in 2007 to the Narragansett High School Hall of Fame as a coach and also to the Wells High Hall of Fame as an athletic administrator. He served as the President of the National Athletic Director’s group in 2001.
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to do things outside my own environment,” said Ryan. “That makes me a better athletic director.”
In retirement, Ryan said he plans to play golf and pursue his passion of fly-fishing. He doesn’t rule out part time work, possibly even some coaching.
He said he’s leaving a good situation for his successor. “This is a good school system, with a balance of academics, athletics, and citizenship,” said Ryan. “The coaches work very hard.”
Photo caption: Marty Ryan retires after lengthy career in education. (Weekly Sentinel photo)