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A Whole New Ball Game: White River Valley’s First AD Putting Program Together

  • White River Valley's new athletic director, Sean Murphy, moves new athletic benches at the Bethel middle school campus on Aug. 7, 2018, in Bethel, Vt. Murphy will assemble the benches at one of the school's athletic fields. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • White River Valley's new athletic director, Sean Murphy, on the Bethel middle school campus on Aug. 7, 2018, in Bethel, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 08, 2018

South Royalton — Sean Murphy is faced with one of the Upper Valley’s most unique challenges before high school athletic activities begin later this month: the bringing together of student-athletes from several different communities and uniting them under the new logo, new mascot and new color scheme of the White River Valley School.

Murphy, an Eliot, Maine, native and former collegiate football and lacrosse head coach, began his new position last week as the first athletic director at White River Valley, the unified school district created under Vermont’s Act 46 and housed in the former South Royalton School. His first few days on the job, he admitted, have been a little chaotic.

It helps to go into it with a clear vision for the future.

“I’ve put a lot of thought into this, my vision for what we do here and what I expect to be the foundation of my decision-making process,” Murphy said over the phone on Thursday. “Everything we do at White River Valley School is decided to foster growth in our students and strengthen our community. … It’s not this town or that town. It’s everybody involved within the district.”

Murphy, 40, played football, hockey, lacrosse and track and field at Marshwood High School in South Berwick, Maine. He then played four years of football and lacrosse at Plymouth State University, getting his degree in physical education in 2000. He took to coaching after his playing career and spent eight years as a collegiate coach for Plymouth State, Bowdoin College, Beckenham (Penn.) College and Husson University.

“Sports have always been a big part of my life,” Murphy said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my passion with others.”

He switched gears in 2012, becoming the director of athletics at La Lumiere School, a boarding school in La Porte, Ind., known primarily for having an exceptionally strong basketball program.

“It was a career change for me,” Murphy said. “But I think I found a bit of a calling.”

The opportunity at White River Valley was both a chance to move closer to home and an opportunity to build an athletic department from scratch.

“I feel really comfortable with the unknown and the opportunities for potential,” he said. “Building something from the ground up, that’s kind of been my track record for what I’ve done as a coach — taking programs, rebuilding them and putting them in a situation to be successful. I get excited about bringing people together under a shared vision. … Vision is step one. Next you have to put together a plan to meet that vision.”

Murphy helped move his family to their new home in Sharon two weeks ago before jumping into his new job. There are still what he described as a lot of loose ends with the preseason starting next week; many of the coaches for the winter or spring sports seasons have not been confirmed yet. Murphy said most of the fall sports do have coaches in place.

“This is very much what I would call an atypical situation, especially for the hiring process,” he said. “Normally, you would expect to have coaches in place this far into the summer. This is not normally what we’d be doing at this time of the year. But there are some first-year wrinkles to work around.”

When the smoke clears and he gets a little bit more settled, Murphy has his long-term goals in mind: bridging old rivalries under a unified athletic department.

“Everyone’s there for a common goal,” Murphy said. “There is a committed, invested interest in doing this together. … I think in the end, we’re all Wildcats.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.