JF's Claudio movin' on

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Cav athletic director leaves program in tip-top shape

By Mike Forster

  Jefferson Forest has had remarkable success over the past six seasons.  The woman who has helped guide the school's athletic programs, alas, has decided to let go of the reins.

Nancy Claudio announced that she would move on to a position out of the Central Office.  She'll hand over those reins to Steve Mills, on an interim basis.

Claudio will move into the position of secondary instructional lead teacher.  "To put it in athletic terms, I'm a principal/teacher coach," she said.

Claudio taught in the classroom for 29 years, during which time she also served as an assistant athletic director in New Jersey.

"I'd like to be a principal someday.  This move can enhance my opportunities to be a successful principal."

There's no disputing she's been a successful athletic director.  Under her watch, the Cavaliers and Lady Cavs have brought home trophies galore.  Among the team's accomplishments over the past half dozen years are district titles in volleyball, cross country, golf, boys swimming, indoor track, girls swimming, baseball, softball, outdoor track, tennis, boys soccer and girls soccer.

JF teams and individual athletes have made numerous journeys to state-wide competition.  Just last week, the girls' cross country team earned third place at States.  Two years ago, the boys' soccer team won the State championship.

So, of what is she most proud?  "Our student-athletes and our coaches," she replied.

She added, "The showcase of JF is the academic prowess of our student-athletes, which overshadows even their great athletic accomplishments.

"The JF kids epitomize what a student-athlete should be."

Claudio pointed to a recent study which showed that Jefferson Forest athletes carried a cumulative GPA of 3.5.  "What our athletes gain is that we instill in them the importance of education, responsibility and producing on and off the field or court.

"It's not all about the wins or losses:  It's what you gain from the experiences.  If you're better today than you were yesterday, you're a success."

Claudio was something of a ground-breaker when she became the first female athletic director in the Seminole District.

Today, before her departure, all three Bedford County schools have female ADs:  Liberty has Lori Mattson and Staunton River has Vanessa Robtison.

Her work has been greatly appreciated.  "The athletic director position wasn't just a job for her," said JF principal Tony Francis.  "It is part of who she is.  She never viewed it as a nine-to-five position.  Instead, it was a real commitment; part of her fibre.  I think that's why she was so successful."

It hasn't been all lollipops and gumdrops for the New Jersey native.  "To be in this position, you have to have a thick skin," she said.

That's because part of the job is placating irate parents, soothing the nerves of coaches and prodding students to take the plunge, so to speak.

It also takes dedication.  Claudio has put in long hours, mostly behind the scenes, in making sure the logistics for every contest are spot-on.

She also can be found riding the school's tractor, personally grooming the fields of play.

Of course, nobody does this job on their own.  Claudio readily points to the stable of long-term, wildly successful coaches at JF.  Coaches with 20+ years leading the red and black include near-legends such as Jim Thacker (baseball), Jedd Zaring (boys soccer), Stan Golon (girls soccer) and Jerome Loy (cross country and track).

"JF has strong programs because of the coaches and the years they've spent here," she assessed.  "Consistency leads to success.

"But they sacrifice family time to make JF succeed."

Claudio, too, has sacrificed family time.  Her three sons, Michael, Brian and Vincent, are all graduates of Jefferson Forest.  So, Claudio got to watch their exploits on the baseball diamond, between trips on the tractor, arranging for game officials, recruiting scoreboard operators, dealing with vendors, selling concessions, taking tickets, directing traffic and a whole host of other activities.

This fall, she was linked romantically with the JF football announcer:  a fellow named Dom Claudio.  It's not often that you hear a wife telling a husband things such as "OK, announce the color guard after you introduce the starting lineups."

Mills, who has been a wildly successful volleyball coach, was scheduled to take over the girls basketball team this winter.  Incumbent coach Paul Redgate had announced his intention to step aside to devote more time to his young family.

With Mills taking over the interim AD role, Redgate graciously agreed to coach the Lady Cavs for another season.

That was one puzzle solved.  No doubt, there'll be more.  Only Nancy Claudio won't be there to help solve them.  She's on to other things.

Have no doubt, though, her presence at JF will be missed.