Tia Sheffield takes over as Gardner Newman athletic director

Published 8:30 am Saturday, August 5, 2023

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A new era in Gardner Newman athletics has begun. Tia Sheffield has taken over as the new athletic director for the school.

“I’ve been in Troup County athletics for a while and have seen the ins and outs of how everything goes,” Sheffield said. “I think it has been an easy transition because I’m already so familiar with how we do things in Troup County.”

Sheffield has an extensive background in athletics in the area. She currently serves as the GNMS cross country and track and field coach as well as the LaGrange High track and field coach. Sheffield will continue those roles as she navigates her new responsibilities. Her athletic background extends all the way back to when she attended Troup High and beyond, and she looks forward to pouring back into the community that she grew up in.

Sheffild has felt a natural call to be a leader for young athletes in the area and found the right time to take the next step in her journey.

“I’ve wanted to be an athletic director for a while, but the first time the position came available I wasn’t ready,” Sheffield said. “I was young, still trying to be a mom and figure it all out.

“Coach (Aaron) Woody took the job and clued me into stuff that was going on and ideas he had.”

The time spent as the LaGrange High track and field coach has already helped her build a strong rapport with LaGrange athletic director Mike Pauley. Sheffield wants to make sure the link between the Mustangs and Grangers athletics is as strong as ever. 

“We have been working to coordinate our programs with the high school even more,” Sheffield said. “We want to bridge any gaps and make sure our high school and middle school coaches are talking and communicating and making sure everybody is on the same page.”

Sheffield has already accomplished one of the major goals of getting more engagement from the student body. The Mustangs, under her leadership, will be the first middle school in Troup County to offer free physicals. 

“A lot of kids don’t end up going to tryouts because they don’t get a physical in time,” Sheffield said. “They have to set an appointment, some of them don’t have insurance, so there are a lot of steps the parents have to take just for their kid to try out. 

“I believe this will be a way to get even more kids to try out for these sports.”

Another sweeping change she has made is the use of the Rank One online portal, which allows coaches to better organize and store documents. One of her next short-term goals is building an athletic website for the Mustangs.

In the short-term, she has already had to replace some coaches, a new task for her, but one she is uniquely suited for as she has spent a decade around the Mustang athletic program and knows what kind of coaches will make an impact on the athletes.

“I feel like we did lose some coaches, but I feel like we have gained a lot in the new ones that have come in,” Sheffield said. “I feel the coaches I have been able to hire and keep are knowledgeable and everybody is committed.”

Sheffield knows what she is looking for in a coach but also in a student-athlete. She knows that student-athletes are held to an even higher standard as they represent their schools both academically and on their athletic field of choice. 

“We look for integrity,” Sheffield said. “We want to be able to trust our student athletes to do the right thing.

“Not every student and parent understands that their kid has to be eligible academically to play sports. We want our Mustangs to be well-rounded.”