By Brian Stanley

Contributing Writer

The Santa Ynez Pirates are entering a new year with a new captain at the helm of the athletic department. After rising through the coaching ranks at the high school, Ashley Coelho has been named the Pirates’ new athletic director.

“I was really excited. My brain was racing with ‘What’s the first thing I should do?’” Coelho said about her first reaction when she heard the news that she got the job.

Taking the reins from former athletic director Cris Avery, who accepted the Area Administrator position at Nipomo High School, Coelho feels well prepared with the guidance she has received from Avery.

“Avery left me a nice little checklist,” Coelho said. “He did a really good job of leaving a tasks list and what order to do them, and expectations.”

The first item on Coelho’s checklist was to make sure all the fall sports schedules were accurate and finalized. The new athletic director immediately got to work contacting other area high school athletic directors.

“We have the six fall sports. We want to make sure all of them are dead set, no changes, no surprises,” Coelho said.

Selected from a field of three finalists for the position, Coelho began working at Santa Ynez High School in 2010 as a math teacher. While on campus she has held a variety of coaching positions.

“There is no one more capable and vested in the kids. She was the perfect choice and she’s so plugged into both the academic and athletic side of coaching, having been a teacher and coached multiple sports,” said Superintendent Scott Cory.

“I’ve coached girls’ golf, girls’ basketball, track and field and cross country,” Coelho said.

Even as she takes on her new role, Coelho will continue coaching throughout the school year.

“I’m planning to still coach sports, so I’m an assistant JV football wide-receivers coach,” Coelho said. “I’m helping the girls golf program transition to their new head coach, who was my assistant over the last six years.”

The new athletic director at Santa Ynez High School, Ashley Coelho, is also the wide-receivers coach with the junior varsity football team.

After the football season wraps up, Coelho will be the girls’ varsity basketball assistant coach before finishing out the year as the track and field head coach.

“It will probably be a whirlwind of a year, but I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be really exciting to be a part of sports as a whole and be a part of more sports programs than just the ones I coach,” Coelho said.

Along with the athletic director duties and coaching commitments, Coelho will have other responsibilities in her new role.

“There is a lot involved with this job because it’s not just athletic director, it’s also testing coordinator,” Coelho said. “It’s basically filling the two roles, but I’m really excited.”

As the testing coordinator for the high school, Coelho will be administering the Advanced Placement exam, CAASPP Smarter Balance exam for mathematics and English, California Science exam, English Language Proficiency Assessments for California exam, and physical fitness testing.

“Since I’ve taken this job I’ve had to step down from teaching math, which is a huge passion of mine,” Coelho said. “I just really enjoy teaching students and sharing my passions. It’s really important to make those connections with the youth.”

Since Coelho no longer has a classroom to teach in, she said, one of her first requests to the school district was to have a classroom of her own to be available for student athletes.

“I want a place for athletes to go for tutorials. They can ask me for help,” Coelho said. “I have a new classroom set up and ready to go. I plan to have it open, and I’ll have a schedule before school, after school and at lunch.”

A 2007 graduate of UCSB, Coelho has outlined a set of goals she wants to achieve in her new role. Topping the list is the Olympic-size swimming pool and new aquatic center on campus.

“The new aquatic center would be a huge bonus to our swimming and water polo programs,” Coelho said. “That’s on our priority (list) right now. We are in a good place right now with the new aquatic center and getting the plans and getting the funds to make it all happen.”

Other goals include establishing a student-athlete leadership council, having coaches take their entire teams to games to support another Pirates’ teams, and encouraging athletes to play multiple sports.

“My big goal, it doesn’t matter if it’s a year, five years or 10 years out, is how can I get the community and the youth more involved in our school,” Coelho said. “We want Pirate Pride from the get-go. So, when kids get here as a freshman, they are already happy to be Pirates.”

Avery said that Coelho is a great choice for the school district.

“She’s one of the hardest-working coaches, she’s a leader and a respected educator on campus. If anyone can do the job, she can.”