James Bunnell is the new athletic director at Saugus High School. (Courtesy Photo)

New Saugus AD Bunnell combines passion and preparation

LEOMINSTER -- James Bunnell tries to answer the question of what he feels his most important job as an athletic director is, but says he is stumped.

“That’s a pretty hard question,” he said, laughing, Friday. “I think that was my same reaction when I got asked that question in the interview, too.”

However he answered it, it must have resonated. Bunnell is the new athletic director at Saugus High, and he brings with him a wealth of experience and qualifications. He has been an active AD for 15 years, also serving in the same capacity at Marian High School. He began his academic career at St. Peter Marian in Worcester, where he was assistant athletic director, a social studies/science teacher, and a varsity boys soccer coach.

It was there, Bunnell said, that he first realized he wanted to be an athletic director.

“When I was coaching, I realized you have the capacity to impact kids in your own program, but it’s a limited number.

“But,” he said, “I love sports so much, and love what sports bring to the table, not just on the field, but in general. I wanted to bring it to an entire department.”

Bunnell found out that he had been selected to replace Mike Nelson at Saugus just last week after a summer of interviews and waiting.

Now, he is ready.

“I’m an athlete,” he said, “and I enjoy being around the games, aside from the wins and losses,” he said. “I love the competition, that passion, that drive, that I see the students have.

“There’s so much that goes into running an athletic department,” he said. “There are all the responsibilities of making sure you’re supporting your coaches, and students, and giving them the opportunity to enjoy themselves.

“Then,” he said, “there are all the requirements that come with it,” he said. “You’re one person in charge of an entire department, and there’s so much that goes along with it. It’s tough to say what the hardest part of the job would be.”

Bunnell has a masters in educational leadership from Fitchburg State University. Also, Bunnell is one of only 22 athletic directors in the state with a certified master athletic administrator certification from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA).

Bunnell is a MIAA certified coach and coaching education instructor and a National Federation of High School Certified Interscholastic coach. He is an accredited sports field safety inspector through UBU Sports Turf. He is double goal coach certified (and working to become one of only 14 trainers in New England) by the Positive Coaching Alliance.

Bunnell is only one of three athletic directors on the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism faculty, and is also an American Red Cross certified instructor of adult and child CPR and first aid.

In addition, he is a committee member for the Massachusetts Prevent Injuries Now Network and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Concussion Council. He has served on the MIAA committees for tournament management, technology and endowment. He is a former executive board member for the Massachusetts Secondary School Athletic Directors Association.

Two years ago, Bunnell received the Ted Damko Award for District E. This award is given to athletic directors within their first five years who make significant contributions to their school athletic department and the MIAA.

Bunnell says there is method to his having all of these qualifications -- that it’ll help him be a better AD.

“When I was a coach, there was very limited time to do a lot of things,” he said. “You have your family, coaching responsibilities, your everyday job.

“Then, there are all these certifications coaches need to obtain, and it can be very time-consuming,” he said. “When I realized that an AD was what I wanted to be, I wanted to make it as easy as possible for my coaches to obtain the things they needed to obtain. I didn’t want them going all over the place, and spending money galore. If I got those, I could hold a class, and make sure my staff had the proper requirements, so we’d be good to go.”

Bunnell said he knows a few of the ADs in the Lynn area. He worked with St. Mary’s Jeff Newhall and Bishop Fenwick’s Dave Woods when he was at Marian.

“Actually,” said Bunnell, “I’m looking forward to working with Jeff, as I believe we open our football season against St. Mary’s.

“One thing I’ll say about ADs, though, and it’s that they’re all eager to help each other.”

He envisions a smooth transition, mainly because aide Mary Beth Bertrand has been keeping things running in the absence of an AD.

“She’s got her finger on the pulse,” Bunnell said. “I couldn’t be more grateful.”


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