FOUR QUESTIONS…A CONVERSATION WITH LARRY MCDONALD
Larry McDonald, a certified athletlc administrator, is the director of athletics, driver’s education, Title IX, health and physical education, and wellness for the Durham Public Schools.
A graduate of Fayetteville State University, he has coached at both the high school and collegiate levels, with stops at such places as E.E. Smith in Fayetteville and Winston-Salem State. He earned his master’s degree at Bowling Green and has completed extensive work on his doctorate.
Larry enjoyed stints as principal at Northwood and at Southern Durham before taking the role in the central office of the Durham Public Schools in 2001.
He also served a four-year stint on the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Board of Directors. He received the Charlie Adams Distinguished Service Award from the NCHSAA in 2012.
Larry also serves as the pastor of Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Roxboro after a tenure at Johnson Chapel AME in Mebane. He serves on several Western North Carolina Conference committees for the church.
Among your duties are those of a school system athletic director, so you are directly involved with working with a number of high schools. What are the biggest challenges you believe high school athletic programs face today?
After years of working with high school athletics, I believe that the biggest challenge that we face is that of athletes becoming involved or specializing in one sport too much. I can remember a time when you had a number of three-sport athletes and they excelled in multiple sports, not just one sport. I guess the day of those types of athletes are gone, but today there are more and more athletes that are burned out and they have less discipline than before. I guess we see more athletes who cannot play multiple sports because of the pressure to specialize and because of that they can’t cope.
You completed a four-year term on the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Board of Directors. How would you describe your experiences as a member of the Board of Directors?
My time on the high school athletic association board was probably one of the most memorable times that I have had during my tenure in high school athletics. I have had the opportunity to visit numerous National Football League camps and games as well as working with college and university athletics, but nothing will ever replace the people that I had the opportunity to become friends with during those four years on the Association board.
We did not just meet about board issues– we met and talked about district issues, we talked about personal issues and we talked about how to help one another become better as people, not just athletics. We call each other even to this day and talk situations through. They became your friends for a lifetime, not just friends on the board.
What is your best memory of high school athletics personally, from your own involvement in them?
From a personal standpoint, I will remember the days that I had at Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville as a member of the football and the track teams. As a senior we won the state high school track and field championship when all of the classifications were together and not broken up. You had to run in the sectionals, regionals and then the state meet.
I will also remember the three city schools from the old Fayetteville City school district. I remember that during that time fewer schools got to go to the playoffs, and a coin toss among Terry Sanford, Reid Ross and E.E. Smith had to be held one season and Reid Ross was the one who got to go to the playoffs that year. Yet we all played together at Seabrook Recreation Center together.
As a coach, I will always remember the young men and the young women that I worked with during high school. There is nothing that will replace on any given day going into a WalMart, Food Lion or into the mall and someone walks up to you and asks you if you are Coach or Mr. McDonald, and then for them to say you may not remember me but you were my teacher or coach during high school and I just want to thank you for what you gave me during my high school days. That is worth more than any amount of money that you could have earned during those days, because you know that you had a positive influence on their life and they told you thank you for being there.
Away from your work with athletics, you serve as the pastor of a church. What kinds of challenges do you face trying to do those two major jobs that can demand so much time? And what do you do on the rare occasions that you have a little time available just for yourself?
You know, even though they seem different, they are really about the same because you are working hard to make people become better in life. When I am in church sometimes I find myself talking to them just like they are one of my athletes. I think that God ordained me to be a change agent for everyone, especially for the children in our state. I think back to the people who had an effect on my life and they were my coaches and the people at my church. Growing up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, I can say that the people in town helped me to become what I am. I am always proud to let people know that I am a product of Fayetteville City Schools– I am not going to call any names because I might forget someone ,but I do give a shout out to all of you. You all know who you are and what you have done to develop me. Thanks so much.
When I am not working or in the church I am pretty much a homebody. I like to do pretty much nothing. As I have gotten older, I like cherishing my son Larry, Jr, who was coaching and teaching in Cumberland County Schools at 71st, coaching football and baseball. He is now enrolled as a graduate student at Texas A&M University, pursuing his master’s degree. Enjoy listening to my daughter Olivia, who is a graduate student at North Carolina Central University, sing in the church choir at Allen Chapel AME Church in Roxboro. It is because of coaching and being a minister that my wife has done a great job raising the two of them, and I say that with all of my heart because as a coach, an administrator as well as being a minister, there was very little time to be home to do it myself.