Greg Luna said he was shocked when he learned from South Pasadena High Principal Janet Anderson last fall he would not be returning as the school’s athletic director for the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
“The reason I was given did not seem genuine to me,” said Luna, who has been relieved of his AD duties after five years “I was told that I had not done a good job including the community in the SPHS athletic program. I had been directed to establish a community advisory group for athletics several years ago. I did not follow through because I was unable to find a system that I believe was appropriate that I could also support.”
In a statement issued by Geoff Yantz, the superintendent for the South Pasadena Unified School District said: “We greatly appreciate Mr. Luna’s contributions to the SPHS athletic program,” Yantz wrote. “He has provided a solid foundation for the next athletic director to take the program to the next level.”
Luna will continue to stay on as the SPHS athletic director through the duration of the current school year ending in early June. “I’m happy and satisfied in how I performed my administrative duties as AD,” he said. “Helping to provide a quality experience for Tiger student-athletes was my priority. Working with quality coaches who genuinely care about the well being of our students has been a plus. Also, working along with several of my former students who are now respected and successful coaches has been a unique experience.”
As he reflects on the time spent in the athletic director role, Luna admits it wasn’t always an easy position to execute. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to see students grow as athletes and more importantly as people,” he said. “While I prioritized the administrative responsibilities of the position, I also realize that the SPHS community also has a high need to have their voice heard and included in the various programs. Somehow, we need to establish trust and boundaries so that coaches are respected as the professionals that we are.”
His focus now will be to ensure a smooth transition for the next athletic director. “Scheduling for next year is at the top of my list for now,” said Luna, who also teaches social studies on campus. “I’m looking forward to moving back to full time teaching next year. I will continue to support our student athletes in some capacity. More importantly, I look forward to seeing my own son, Samuel, compete during his senior year. I will be able to focus on being a fan and parent.”
Luna’s son is a member of the South Pasadena High football team.
Asked what challenges he faced as the school’s athletic director, Luna said there were many, especially at the outset five years ago when he initially focused on what he calls “reestablishing trust” in the school’s athletic department.
When he took over as the athletic director South Pasadena High was in the midst of a sexual abuse scandal involving a coach and several students. “Tightening oversight to ensure the safety of our students and regain their trust was important,” explained Luna. “Establishing clear communication with coaches and becoming a visible presence was essential.”
A second challenge, Luna noted, has been “navigating conflicting visions and demands of the Tiger Athletic program,” he said. “On one hand I received clear direction from SPHS administration that our programs should be inclusive and fun for kids –that a major goal was to teach lessons of life through sports. However, there is a growing community voice that would like our programs to be more competitive. ”
While the school has enjoyed overall success in some sports – water polo, girls and boys soccer, cross country, golf, swimming and track and field – there has been a significant down-slide in recent years when it comes to producing winning football, basketball baseball and softball teams.
“Winning programs seem to be a greater priority,” said Luna. “In an ideal situation it’s difficult for these two goals to coexist. So, we want competitive winning teams that also include all types of students. This is a great challenge.”