Jennifer Burks, women behind athletics

Athletics at the school are a big deal, but they do not just happen, they are made possible by our athletic director and assistant principal Jennifer Burks. Burks has been at perry as the athletic director for eight years and still many do not know what her job entails.

Taking on the athletic department is a big role and it was one Burks wanted to take on. “Just previous to Perry, I was the PE department chair and head track/field and cross country coach at Higley HS. I was one of the first teachers hired there when they first opened in 2001. I loved coaching and teaching and getting to work with students” Burks explained adding; “ I was asked by the principal if I would be interested. It was a difficult choice to leave my teams that I had started, but it felt like it was time to make the move in my career, so I accepted the position”.

Games and sporting events may seem like they just happen, but behind the scenes is Burks putting them together; making sure they run as smoothly as possible. “ Part of my job is being the event planner, scheduler and supervisor for all of our athletic events and facilities. For example, putting on a home football game with 200 players, 50 coaches, 75 cheerleaders, 5 officials, at least 30 support and security staff, 200 band members, multiple media outlets, and over 4000 fans can be quite a task” Burks states.

Burks takes on anything and all things sports-related; that includes working with many different people as well as coaches, players, departments the list could go on. Burks explains, “The more human side of the job, is working with almost 200 coaches and 1200 athletes to get them what they need to be successful. That includes meetings with parents, taking complaints and concerns, helping coaches through difficult situations with athletes, ordering equipment and uniforms, serving as a liaison between our coaches, the district and the AIA, overseeing our Perry Puma Athletic Council, evaluating coaches, making sure that our athletic training staff has what they need to keep our athletes safe, and communicating rules, regulations and the vision for our athletics program with all stakeholders”.

With so many things being on an athletic directors plate it takes truly enjoying sports to adopt the position. “I am a huge high school sports fan. My dad was a high school teacher and we went to every home and away basketball game for as long as I could remember. I loved the excitement of the games and I still do” Burks states. She can enjoy the hard work she does day in and day out.

Burks does not just handle teams, but also those who were sadly cut from them as well. “I have a lot of empathy for athletes or parents who have concerns with being cut from a team, who are struggling with playing time, or who feel they are being treated unfairly. As a parent myself who has children who are both athletes, I can understand how devasting it can be to not have the experience that you expected” Burks comments adding; “These conversations can sometimes be very difficult”. There are always going to be things that are difficult in a job and for Burks these conversations are the hardest.

For all the work Burks has done as an athletic director, she has awards including the AZ Central Region athletic director of the Year, and the AIAAA Rookie Athletic Director. Without Burks the athletic department, sports and all would not be able to run the way they do.