Spain Park names Josh Donaldson as new athletic director

Published 3:59 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HOOVER – Josh Donaldson was officially named the new athletic director of Spain Park High School at a Hoover Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, June 13.

“I’m really excited and looking forward to the opportunity,” Donaldson said. “I’ve already hit the ground running, so we’re excited to see what this year holds.”

Spain Park principal Dr. Amanda Esslinger was also excited at Donaldson moving to Spain Park because of his previous success in the Birmingham area.

“He comes with a track record that is outstanding, as far as someone who is in education from a teacher perspective and also someone who is a really great coach with a lot of state championships to his name,” Dr. Esslinger said. “He’s also served in so many capacities outside of education with regards to event management. I think he’s going to be a really great fit to help our athletic programs continue to grow and succeed.”

Donaldson moves from his alma mater of Homewood High School, where he worked for the last 11 years as a teacher. He served as Homewood’s cross-country coach for six seasons and also as the track and field coach for four of those seasons. He won six state titles as a coach in the two sports.

Donaldson felt a little bittersweet about the move from his hometown. Even though he was a successful coach and teacher and would have loved to continue as both, he longed for a role in athletic administration. Spain Park provided the perfect opportunity to get into administration at a large school in a great community that he couldn’t say no to.

“It’s always been on that backburner of getting into administration and getting into athletic administration,” Donaldson said. “I was loving coaching and teaching and could do that, if no opportunities really opened up. But to have an opportunity at Spain Park at a 7A school over the mountain, it really just opened that door, and so I decided, ‘why not take a shot and see how things play out?’”

Donaldson said he hope to utilize his organization, communication and academic skills at Spain Park. Dr. Esslinger especially pointed to his success as an AP Biology teacher at Homewood as something she is excited to see integrated into the athletic director position.

“I’m really excited about the school knowledge that he brings from a classroom perspective,” Dr. Esslinger said. “He’s been an AP teacher for a really long time, and even though it’s an athletic director position, they also can serve an administrative role and can help us with our teachers in the way that they are providing instruction in the classroom, but also that academic aspect that he can bring to our athletes to help them be successful in the classroom at Spain Park.”

Donaldson hopes he can help students better manage the relationship between their work in the classroom and on the field.

“First and foremost, I just want to make sure that academics are at the forefront and as a student-athlete, the student part comes first, and then just helping students realize that that is also a big part of why they’re at school, not just the athletic side,” Donaldson said.

Dr. Esslinger pointed to his leadership and organizational skills as another skill that will serve Donaldson well as an AD.

“He brings with him a really great servant leadership style that will help our coaches because I know that he’s going to work so hard for them, and he has a wonderful talent for organizing,” Dr. Esslinger said. “I think that that is something that can really help everyone be better at their jobs and more successful and hopefully provide some structure that could make it a little easier to get some things done.”

Donaldson replaces Patrick Kellogg, who retired after ten years at the helm of Spain Park. Dr. Esslinger has a longstanding relationship with Kellogg and was thankful for his time at Spain Park, especially for his help with her transition to administration last year.

“I was so grateful to work with him as a first-year principal,” Dr. Esslinger said. “I know that everyone who has spent time with him at Spain Park is thankful for the leadership and the enthusiasm that he brought. He is a true Jags fan and we are going to miss him greatly.”