In making his latest career decision, Tommy Long looked to, and ultimately followed, his heart. And while that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the best one, it does assure that Long’s decision can’t be the wrong one.
Not only is Long doing what he likes to do, he likes where he’s doing it.
For Long, a Lebanon County guy through and through, becoming the new athletic director at Annville-Cleona High School is a homecoming. And in a way, it completes his athletic evolution from student-athlete to coach to sports adminstrator.
Officially, Long became the Little Dutchmen’s new AD on November 19th, taking over from Karen Evans, who took an assistant’s principal position at Manheim Township in October. For the past six years, Long had been the athletic director at Class AAAA Ephrata.
But moving to Class AA Annville-Cleona is far from a demotion, as far as the former ‘Touchdown Tommy’ is concerned.
“It (being in Lebanon County) played a huge role in my decision,” said Long, who lives in Cleona with his wife and three children. “With the drive to Ephrata and activities at night that made it tough. There were times when I would go three or four days without seeing the kids. The fact that I live in Cleona almost made the job perfect.”
While at Lebanon Catholic in the mid 1990s, Long enjoyed a three-year career that has never been paralled in the annals of Lebanon County scholastic football history. Because of his vision, elusiveness and raw speed, Long is still the all-time leading rusher in county history.
Long graduated from Lebanon Valley College in 2002, and earned his master’s degree and teachers’ certificate from the university of California at Pennsylvania in 2007. Long, who coached baseball at Lebanon Catholic and football at Lebanon High School, taught eighth-grade social studies at Palmyra for five years prior to getting the position at Ephrata.
“I realized I wanted to be an athletic director when I was in high school or early in college,” said Long. “I remember one of my assignments was to interview a high school coach or athletic director and I interviewed (former Lebanon High A.D.) Tom Jordan. When I got done talking to him I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
“But getting into the position, there’s a number of steps that have to be taken,” added Long. “You need to be in the classroom and on the field coaching first. I was fortunate to get a (athletic director’s) job in five years. That’s very rare. I’m thankful for the opportunity Ephrata gave me. It allowed me to get involved with the athletic piece.”
At Annville-Cleona, Long walks into a situation that is overall healthy, but is in need of some stability. Over the past few years, Annville-Cleona’s administration as a whole has experienced a certain degree of change.
“That’s very key to me,” said Long of the Little Dutchmen’s stability issue. “But I couldn’t ask for more supportive people around me. I tried to explain to them that this isn’t a one-year step for me. I’m in a position of not having to take a job that’s the highest paying. I’m trying to do my part. I’m going to show I’m going to be here for a while.
“To be honest, I want to sit down with the coaches and get a feel for it (the overall health of the athletic program),” Long continued. “Mainly where the expectations are. We’re fielding some very competitive programs in some sports. What we have to figure out is what we need to do to take the next step. We want to make the programs inviting to kids. We want the last kid on the end of the bench talking at lunch about why others should be going out for that sport. Those kinds of things don’t happen over night. But everybody’s supportive and wants to be a part of it.”
In addition to his duties as athletic director, Long also sports the title of ‘assistant principal.’ In this day and age of getting the best bang for our administrative buck, athletic directors are also expected to serve as game managers at most sporting events, some of which are staged at night.
“I have more principal duties during the day,” said Long. “So it has been a bit of a trade-off. My wife has been super supportive. It’s not a nine-to-five job. But here I can go home and see the kids and come back. I can meet the responsibilities of my family more.
“My wife understands that the only way to be a good leader, a good administrator, I’ve got to be visible,” Long continued. “It’s funny how many kids come up to you and say, ‘I saw you at this. I saw you at that.’ They notice things like that.”
It may be that Long is one of a dying breed – a Lebanon County native serving as an administrator in a Lebanon County school district.
“I’m not really familiar with other school districts,” said Long. “It’s a career choice. It has a lot of positives, but it has some downsides. Administrators are on-call all the time. You lose connections with kids to a certain degree. I was surprised how much I missed being with kids.
“It’s funny,” Long added. “I’m at the point where I’m not really looking to move on. Very rarely at 29 do you get your dream job. Now it’s five years later and I get to do my dream job five minutes away from my home. I’d just like to continue in this position as long as I can.”