Editors Note: This is the latest in our series of articles about the Athletic Directors at Sullivan Countys eight public high schools.
By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY June 30, 2006 Tim Bult, who recently completed his 10th year as Athletic Director in the Liberty Central School District, graduated from the Home of the Indians in 1989.
During his scholastic athletic career, Bult was a three-letter man: football (linebacker and left guard), baseball (shortstop) and wrestling.
When I took over as athletic director, many of my coaches were still here coaching, and that was interesting, said Bult, referring to Coaches John Lennon (wrestling), Ed Riente (football) and Phil Fanning and Harold Tighe (baseball).
It was trickery when I got here [as AD], he added. Id see them in the hallways, and Id call them coach, and some of the veterans would remind me that we were now colleagues, and I could call them by their first names. It took a few months to make the transition.
After graduating from Liberty High School, Bult attended SUNY Morrisville for a year and then transferred to Palm Beach (Fla.) Community College for one semester.
During that semester, a Florida doctor diagnosed the 19-year-old Bult with juvenile diabetes.
I was going to live on a needle the rest of my life, Bult said.
But that stunning news spurred Bult on a personal quest to get into better shape. He started to visit the weight room on a regular basis and competed in four bodybuilding shows while in college.
There is nothing more sobering than going out there in your posing trunks, recalled Bult. It really lets you know what you need to work on. Once I was in the weight room, I was hooked.
He left the Sunshine State to return home, where he earned a two-year degree at Sullivan County Community College. Bult then became a student-athlete at SUNY Cortland, playing football and earning a degree in physical education.
Asked what he learned from his high school coaches, Bult replied, These guys had a huge impact, and really helped mold me as a young man.
I love athletics and competition, he added. Working with kids keeps me on my toes, and I want to do for todays kids what my coaches did for me 15 years ago.
So exactly what did Libertys AD pick up from his coaches?
Anybody can win, but winning with class and losing with dignity
how to take something out of a loss, understand what you did wrong and try not to do it again, said Bult of the lessons he learned on a no-excuses gridiron and sweat-stained wrestling mat. You only lose when you continue to make the same mistakes.
According to Bult, athletic competition teaches teamwork, how to work with others and how to meet the goals of a group whether youre the strongest or weakest link in the chain.
Technology has made it much easier to have alternatives to athletics and hard work, he said. Kids can get instant gratification from playing video games and visiting internet chat rooms. They have a lot of alternatives that dont lend themselves to healthy lifestyles, and those are some of the challenges we have to face.
He said that in a nutshell, athletics provides todays students with opportunities not found in the classroom: winning and losing together, dedication, commitment and the lesson that as a team, hard work pays off.
Under Bults watch as Liberty AD, he has seen several student-athletes go on to compete at Division III colleges, the advent of indoor track and field teams and the start of a volleyball program.
The biggest accomplishment is about 100 yards from my office, he said.
When he returned to his alma mater and took the AD job, the physical education training equipment was more than a little shopworn it was downright dangerous.
So Bult started a campaign to ramp up the weight room. The process of creating a state-of-the-art physical training center got a real shot in the arm when the late New York State Assemblyman Jake Gunther rounded up about $50,000. In addition, a federal Carol M. White Physical Education (SHAPE) Grant was recently awarded to the Liberty, Eldred and Monticello school districts.
Over three years, well get approximately $90,000 to $100,000 a year for equipment and some professional staff development, said Bult, noting that about two months ago, Liberty bought $23,500 in new cardio-vascular training equipment that monitors heart rates, body fat content and flexablility and strength.
The 2,300 square foot physical training facility features treadmills, ellipticals, a stairmaster and 27 weight training stations.
In the autumns of 1998 and 1999, the Liberty Indians varsity football teams earned back-to-back Section IX championships. But then for a variety of reasons including girlfriends, a first set of wheels, a transient student population and the need to work after school to help put bread on the family table the once proud football program fell on hard times.
Twice in the past five years, Liberty did not field a varsity football team. The Indians had a varsity squad last fall, but the team didnt post a single win.
Participation has been a challenge, and football has been under the gun in the community for not having huge numbers, Bult said. The coaches Jim OConnor, Phil Fanning and John Wilhelm really worked their tails off to build a program.
No athletic directors office would be complete without a few inspirational posters, and Bults is no exception. The posters on the walls around his desk remind everyone that Winners Never Quit; Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever; Steriods Dont Make Great Athletes, They Destroy Them; and the all-purpose You Want it When?
Sports is an area that gives kids a challenge, both individually and as a group, Bult commented. It brings out character and gives them satisfaction.
Note: At the annual Liberty Central School Block L Athletic Awards ceremony that was held earlier this month, Bult received a standing ovation from the coaches, parents and student-athletes in attendance. After presenting his varsity wrestling awards, Lennon asked his fellow coaches and audience members to thank Bult for his decade of service as the school districts AD.
This fall, Bult, who taught some physical education courses each school day in addition to performing his duties as AD, will become a full-time phys. ed instructor at LCS.
At this time, LCS administrators have not decided who will replace Bult as AD.