Almost every high school sports coach and athletic director understands the importance of having a skilled and resourceful athletic department secretary on duty.
Without one, activities on the playing field can unravel, student athletes can find themselves ineligible for a variety of reasons, communication between coaches and teachers can break down and athletic directors can wilt under a burden of paperwork.
Fortunately, at Payson High, the school has an enthusiastic, highly qualified and personable athletic department secretary in Stephanie Shields.
She’s been at the school since April 2008 capably handling a variety of challenges including gathering physical and medical release forms for all student athletes, submitting required forms to the Arizona Interscholastic Association, distributing schedules for all sports, updating coaching handbooks, scheduling transportation, generating academic eligibility reports and keeping attendance records that she must submit each afternoon to coaches.
Oh yes, she must also deal with the often-pesky media, answering questions that might seem mundane to her.
“She is really knowledgeable. You ask her something and she knows the answer,” said Roundup photographer Andy Towle. “Plus she is really cooperative and friendly.”
As if Shields didn’t already have enough athletic responsibilities at work, she’s also entrusted with assigning detentions, entering them in the school computer, reminding students and parents of lunch detentions and Saturday school, answering phones, issuing parking permits and helping with attendance when needed.
During the course of a school day, she also has as much personal interaction with the students as most teachers and coaches.
“I basically have (students) in and out all through the day, everything from dress codes to answering questions about schedules, practices or letting me know about doctors appointments,” said Shields. “Since my office is in the administrative office, there’s never a dull moment, and I like the variety.”
This school year, her job has been rendered even more hectic because the administrative office has one less secretary than in previous years.
With all she must accomplish as an athletic department secretary, Shields has obviously mastered the art of multi-tasking, which probably continues after hours because she is a single mother who has three children for which to care.
Former Payson High assistant principal Tim Fruth and ex-athletic director Jason Lobik are among those who appreciate Shields’ dedication and hard work.
“She is always willing to help out in other areas than just her responsibilities,” said Fruth, now an assistant principal at Alchesay High School. “She was a big help to me on discipline issues.”
Fruth and Lobik also laud Shields as a secretary who is highly respected by athletic directors around the East region and 3A conference.
“In my contact with them, I am told how much they enjoy working with her and that she is such a great resource,” Fruth said. “The ADs say she is quick to help resolve problems and help visiting schools get what they need.”
While some might think that Shields could turn a bit disgruntled and frustrated with the responsibilities she must shoulder, nothing could be further from the truth.
“I love the kids; the coaches are great to work with as is the transportation department, teachers, area athletic directors, the FAN (Friends And Neighbors) Club, my coworkers and parents,” she said.
Her goal at work, she says, is “to make sure people feel welcome and not afraid to come to me or ask me for help. That’s what I am here for.”
Among those who appreciate her willingness to help visitors is Floyd Simmons of the Sports Zone magazine in Show Low and a sports broadcaster for the White Mountain FM radio station.
“Stephanie is the kind of professional we love to work with,” Simmons said. “She’s always helpful and keeps us up to date on the Longhorns. I wish more schools had someone like Stephanie Shields.”
Shields has lived in Payson for about 14 years, but was raised in Salem, Ore. and Mesa. She is a graduate of Dobson High School.
Prior to working at the high school, she was employed by Safeway in customer service and has a real estate license.