Brookfield Central's Sobrilsky named AD of the Year
He strives to improve students' athletics experiences
Todd Sobrilsky has a simple philosophy about his work as an athletic director.
"I want to leave the campfire cleaner and better than when I got there," he said.
Now in his third year as Brookfield Central High School's athletic director, Sobrilsky has an almost 30-year track record as a teacher, coach and administrator spanning several school districts.
Recently, he was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Wisconsin Association of Athletic Directors.
Sobrilsky was one of seven athletic directors throughout Wisconsin recognized at an annual conference this fall in Wisconsin Dells. At the conclusion of the group recognition, as is the annual custom, the association named the top recipient. Sobrilsky said he had no idea his name would be called.
"My first reaction was, 'You've got to be kidding,' " he said. "I don't remember much right after that."
His wife, Ann, reassured him his acceptance speech was just fine and, yes, he did remember to thank her. Sobrilsky said it was special because his family, sons A.J. and Nick and daughter Carly, also attended.
In an interview squeezed in while overseeing Central's Thanksgiving girls basketball tournament on Nov. 23, Sobrilsky talked about his career's past, present and future.
"I was fortunate to have mentors who helped guide me," he said. "Early on, even though I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and coaching, others told me it would be wise to get advanced degrees so that I would advance my career."
He took the advice to heart.
After earning a bachelor's degree in history from Carroll College in 1984, Sobrilsky earned two master's degrees, one in education and professional development in 1988 from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the other in leadership in 1998 from Marian College.
He fit his continuing education into a busy career path that included teaching and coaching in Mukwonago, coaching and taking on some administrative work for the Beaver Dam Unified School District, serving as associate principal and activities leadership in Mount Horeb and Green Bay and as an adjunct professor for summer graduate courses at St. Thomas University of Minnesota.
Along the way, he warmed up to being an administrator with experiences such as helping start a youth sports camp in Beaver Dam. Others saw his success as a precursor to a more full-time administrative role.
"I was being asked to do more and more things that were administrative," he said. "I liked it, and I saw it as a chance to help a bigger audience."
Sobrilsky said he applied for the Elmbrook position in early 2010 after serving four years balancing associate principal and activities director duties in Green Bay. The prospect of the move was not simple. With his two boys in college, Sobrilsky needed to convince his daughter, who was knee-deep in softball at Green Bay, to support the move.
"When I talked to (Principal) Don Labonte about it, he suggested that I bring Carly to the school so she could get a personal look," Sobrilsky said. "She said she thought she could make the move.
"Now, I was prepared to come anyway," he laughed. "Ann and I decided that if Carly wanted to stay and finish high school in Green Bay, they would stay and I would come here and work. I am just glad it worked out the way it did."
Family, he said, has been a major blessing in his life. He said his sons, daughter and wife all have participated in various school activities during his administrative stints.
"It has been great," Sobrilsky said. "I'm very fortunate."
At Elmbrook, Sobrilsky has, with the help of the school's boosters, tackled the creation of a Hall of Fame and the upgrading of athletic facilities with Central4Ward. While he took an early leadership role in the Hall of Fame efforts, Sobrilsky said, he also has taken a back seat approach to Central4Ward.
"I take ownership of planting a seed, watering it and when it started to grow, knowing when to get out of the way," Sobrilsky said. "The group has a synergy of their own. They are powerful and successful people. There's a time and a place to be a leader and a time and a place to be a follower. I have found in my career that there is just as much success in being a follower."
Sobrilsky said one of his future goals is to water what already is a friendly rivalry with Brookfield East High School by setting up a system where the schools can earn points for all sports in head-to-head competition and based on where they wind up in conference standings.
"I have looked at how the schools have done over the past few years," Sobrilsky said, smiling, "and I am willing to bet that nine out of 10 times we are going to kick their butt."
In the end, though, Sobrilsky said, his work is really all about the students. He works hard not to interfere with coaches, but takes advantage of those opportunities to stay in touch with them off the athletic fields.
"I get to talk to them in the hallway or in the cafeteria," he said.
Sobrilsky has found another way to stay connected. He has formed a Lancer Leadership Group with kids from various sports. He said it's an opportunity for him to share some leadership skills with them while having them share what is going on throughout the school.
"My role is specific in that I try to help coaches in dealing with issues that affect players without getting into the coaching," he said, adding that he would like to help Central improve in sportsmanship and communication.
"We're doing fine in those areas, but I'd like us to improve," he said. "That's just part of my job."
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