Gone are the old days when athletic directors would simply put “Game Tonight” on a sign in front of the school to promote games and events. Overseeing a prep program now means creating a brand that showcases the school, says Craig Huljak, who is the athletic director at Shortridge High School.
Simply, the profession has gone through an evolution.
“In today’s world we are creating a brand as athletic directors,” says Huljak, who has been with Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) for more than twenty years. “We have to make sure the look, the feel, the perception, and the product is in line with our academic admin vision, as well as our entire district as a whole. That means every aspect from uniforms to scheduling to what coaches we hire will ultimately impact the overall athletic culture and the kids who want to come here.”
Huljak was recently recognized for his professional evolution. The National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) recently announced the Shortridge sports administrator is a certified athletic administrator.
To earn this distinction, Huljak has demonstrated the highest level of knowledge and expertise in the field of interscholastic athletic administration. The voluntary certification process included a thorough evaluation of the candidate’s educational background, experience, and professional contributions, as well as a rigorous, comprehensive written examination.
The NIAAA is a national professional organization consisting of all 50 state athletic administrator associations and more than 12,000 individual members. It is dedicated to promoting the professional growth of interscholastic athletic administrators and preserving the educational nature of interscholastic athletics and the place of these programs in the secondary school curriculum.
The entire coaching team at Shortridge admits they’ve enjoyed nothing but overwhelming support from Huljak, says Melody Groothuis, who works in the school’s media center and also coaches girls’ cross country and swimming.
She points out that Huljak is all about action.
“He works tirelessly to support our student-athletes and athletic teams here at Shortridge, working countless overtime hours to make sure we all have what we need,” Groothuis says. “I have coached at other high schools and have never had an AD who puts the kind of time and effort that Craig puts into our athletic programs. On top of that, he is just a great person to work with—supportive, positive, and principled. We couldn’t do what we do here at Shortridge without him.”
While the certification puts him in an elite group of interscholastic athletic administrators nationwide, Huljak points out that IPS is a perfect place for his type of work.
“I believe IPS Athletics as a whole is becoming a great place for our K-12 kids,” said Huljak, who has his bachelor’s degree from Ball State University and master’s degrees from both Indiana Wesleyan University and Indiana State University. “Working alongside our other IPS athletics directors, we as a whole are helping build something really special. So, this certification and all of the professional accolades help IPS athletics continue to grow together.”