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Chapman: True blue Sierra through & through
Sierra High School Athletic and Activities Director Anthony Chapman stands in his office in front of photos and league championship patches from when he coached the schools track and cross country teams. A Sierra High alum, Chapman has served in the AD position since 2011. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

It’s impossible to miss him.

Even among the athletes in the sports that he oversees, Sierra High School Athletic Director Anthony Chapman looms large in the crowd. His lanky frame – which hasn’t changed much from when he played basketball and ran track at the school in the mid-90’s – distinguishing him from the a massive left tackle or a bulky basketball center that might come close to matching his height.

But what really makes Chapman hard to miss is his dedication to the students that he serves not only as the Athletic Director but the Activities Director as well – essentially putting him in charge of all of the extracurricular activities at his alma mater.

It’s something that he takes great pride in, and without batting an eye he’ll be the first to tell you that he wants to make sure that the students that he comes in contact with – whether that’s on the football field or the leadership class he oversees – get the same thing out of their experience at the school that he did.

Chapman – who gave up his coaching positions for track and cross country to take the administrative post he serves in now – agreed to sit down and answer a few questions for a personal profile. Here’s what he had to say:

Favorite movie:  “I’m not much of a movie buff. (Answers three other questions.) Rudy. Definitely Rudy.”

Favorite style of music: “Popular music.”

Last book you read?: “The Hunger Games.”

Idea of a perfect day: “All positive. No complaints coming across my desk. Just positive energy and a positive atmosphere where all of our teams are successful. At home it would just be a day spending time with my kids and my family. Where I don’t have to think about anything else but being with them and hanging out.”

What do you love most about your job?: “Seeing kids enjoy success. Whether that’s on the athletic field, in leadership or in the classroom, as a former coach you can recognize that look that comes with accomplishment – when you work hard and you see something go well. I like seeing that look.”

What was it like to come back and teach and be a part of the staff here at your alma mater?: “It’s really a dream job for me. I started out here in a teaching job and as a coach and moved over into the activities and athletics positions, and I love it. People ask me what my official titles are, and I give them what’s written down on paper but in reality my entire job is getting kids to connect to school, and I’m all in with it. It’s humbling to be back here. I remember being part of a group that chose the Nile Garden mascot – it’s been a great journey and I feel very fortunate and grateful and like I have an incredible amount of responsibility to give back to a place that did so much for me.”

When you were a student, current Vice Principal Greg Leland was your track coach. Was it strange to come back and be a teacher and eventually take over a program you were a part of – with him as the athletic director?: “It was strange at first. This is my eighth year professionally as an educator, and when I first started out here there were all of the coaches and teachers that I had when I was a student – (Greg) Leland, (Jack) Thomson, (Richard) Boyd. It was kind of a special treat to get to know them on a completely different level. Greg has become a very good friend of mine – my wife and I hang out with he and his wife and that’s something I could have never predicted happening. One cool thing that I remember is that Greg would pick me up occasionally and give me a ride home when I lived down the street from him. Last year his son Mike was the ASB President in leadership, and it was kind of seeing everything come back around full-circle and I kind of got the chance to be that person for his son that he was for me. It was somewhat of a Twilight Zone moment, but it was cool.”

What’s the most difficult part of your job?: “I care so much about Sierra High School – the whole picture – and no matter how hard I try I can’t please everybody. That’s not what you really want to hear when you’re working with kids. It wears on you sometimes.”

What tools do you think kids learn from participating in athletics and other after school activities?: “I really believe that sports is a microcosm of what life is all about – building relationships, overcoming challenges and setbacks, reaching goals and moving forward. You put all of it together over the course of a season with the ups-and-downs, and hopefully it’s a life-changing experience.”

Any hobbies when you have some downtime?: “I like to read. I read weird stuff – I’m a pretty big patriot so I read stuff like the 9/11 report and things like that. I like boating and going out on the Delta, and traveling – right now we’re planning a trip across country to New York for our 10th anniversary next summer. And the leadership class is going to be heading to Washington, D.C., for the Inauguration – that’ll be some traveling as well.”

What additional things do you think that students get out of education?: “One import thing, I think, is that they learn how to be good, productive citizens and members of society – hopefully with a moral compass that’ll steer them right. I think that sports and leadership teach them how to have a good leadership and develop those skills. I know that learning the curriculum and excelling in the classroom is the key, but there are other facets as well.”

If somebody else were to describe Anthony, what would they say?: “I would hope they would say I was passionate, reliable and trustworthy – a good husband and a good father. That I really strived to make a difference instead of just being a feather in the wind. Whether they would actually say that or not – I’m not sure.”

How has being around sports changed your appreciation for them?: “I’m a Giants fan – a local guy – my Dad was a firefighter in San Francisco for 30-plus years and he had season tickets so we’d go to games at Candlestick Park. I love to watch the 49ers and of course I played basketball and ran track. I play golf a little bit today, but not very well. But I’ve really grown to like all sports – there isn’t anything that I won’t watch.”

What do you love most about working with kids?: “Last week we had homecoming and with the activities that we had planned I got that same rush and thrill and enjoyment that I got from coaching by just seeing so many kids in the quad out there having a good time – enjoying food and music and the car show and a bounce house. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that’s why education is awesome – I couldn’t look at a computer screen with Excel spreadsheets every day. I love the sense of community and it’s something that I take a lot of pride in. It’s not a job to me.

Favorite restaurants in the world?: “Oh man – In Salt Lake City there’s The Pie. Great pizza. And in Manhattan there’s Gray’s Papaya Hot Dogs at 72nd and Broadway at Lincoln Center. I also like Casper’s Hot Dogs in Hayward. And locally I’d have to say Red Robin – I love their burgers. Also The Creamery at BYU – homemade ice cream. Can’t beat it.”

What are some of the strangest jobs that you’ve ever had?: “I was a school bus driver for three years in Provo, Utah – took third place in the Novice Division at the Utah State Bus Rodeo. I also detailed limousines, delivered pizzas and – this was a weird one – I was a substance abuse counselor. I got that last job because I was bilingual – I’ve never had anything to drink or taken any drugs.”

When did you decide to “hang it up” with your own athletic career?: “I actually ended up having to have heart surgery when I was 18. I was at UC Santa Cruz playing basketball and I got diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia – it’s the same thing that killed Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis. I could kind of feel a beat in between what would be regular beats, so they started monitoring me and it got up to 300 beats-a-minute so they did what they call a catheter ablation. It didn’t work, so that pretty much ended it for me right there. It was a life changing thing. I had some time to think about what I wanted to do next and I chose to go on a mission and that set in motion a series of events that led me here. When I got offered a job here at Sierra High School, it was a no brainer. I haven’t looked back since.”

Chapman lives in town with his wife Erika and their three children – 6-year-old twins Abigail and Alexandra and 4-year-old son Anthony Jr.