Ken Fredrickson took his 19 years of experience as athletic director with him when he retired over the summer.
Cris Avery, Santa Ynez's new AD, has spent the time since ensuring that no one noticed.
"Ken had been a wonderful mentor," Avery said during a recent phone interview, "but I'm still learning the questions I need to ask. That's going to be the steep learning curve this year. My No. 1 job is to try and make my coaches' lives easier and that's easier said than done. They need assistance with everything."
Avery likened his first few weeks on the job as "drinking water through a firehose."
Avery said his focus has mainly been on getting rosters set, filing necessary paperwork and checking players' eligibility. The Pirates are also recruiting coaches. They have an opening for a girls varsity water polo head coach and a boys JV baseball coach.
"Those are the sorts of things that are weighing on my mind," Avery added. "We've got some experienced coaches and some experienced teams coming back. We're looking forward to a real strong year in the final year of this configuration of the Los Padres League."
The landscape at Santa Ynez will change quickly for Avery. The Los Padres League will cease to exist, at least in its current state, when Santa Maria Valley and San Luis Obispo County schools leave the CIF Southern Section for the Central Section next school year.
Most of Santa Ynez's teams will move in to the Channel League and play Santa Barbara-area and Lompoc Valley teams in league contests.
Avery has the experience to guide Santa Ynez into a new era.
"I've lived and worked in the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Ynez High School and this is my 29th year," Avery said. "I coached basketball for 14 seasons, including three as a varsity boys coach. I coached varsity softball for seven years and I coached boys soccer for an unremarkable season as a varsity coach."
Avery is so intertwined in the SYVUHS community that he's coached some current Santa Ynez head varsity coaches.
"A unique experience is that I coached Denicia Gills, our girls softball coach, in softball when she was a student-athlete," Avery said. "I coached Josh McClurg, our varsity football coach, in JV basketball when he was a student-athlete at Santa Ynez."
Avery also has close ties to one of the valley's most prominent athletes. He and his family hosted Abu Danladi, the No. 1 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft by Minnesota United earlier this year, when Danladi was attending the Dunn School in Los Olivos. Danladi is a native of Takoradi, Ghana, and came to the United States through the Right to Dream program.
Avery is confident in his stable of experienced and talented coaches, and grateful to have their help in this era of transition at SYVUHS.
"Ron Misner is leading our cross country program, taking over for David Jackson," Avery said. "Ron is a longtime assistant and former head coach. He's doing a great job. Ashley Coelho is coaching girls golf and Jen Rasmussen returns to girls tennis. Tom Wright is back in girls volleyball and Jake Kalkowski is chasing that elusive boys water polo championship.
"We've got an experienced group of coaches who are going to help educate me this year and I'm real excited. I've got unbelievable support from the school community and Ken as a mentor."
Avery is not trying to fill the void left Fredrickson's departure, but rather intent of forging his own path in guiding the Pirates' athletic programs.
"I'm not going to be able to live up to the level of service that Ken was able to deliver," Avery said. "At least not for a few years, until I figure everything out. It's a full-time job that we're only given 60 percent of my allotted time. I've got another part of my job that takes up a lot of time.
"But this is a job that you do with your heart as well as your head."
Kalkowski, in his 12th year as the Pirates' boys water polo coach, says Avery has been doing just fine in his first months on the job.
"Ken had taken Cris under his wing and was working a lot with him over the summer," Kalkowski said. "Chris has been on campus quite a while as a teacher and has worked closely with a lot of the things Ken had been doing. Cris has always been a big supporter of athletics here. It's still early, but he's been very involved with our practices and getting everything organized for us."