Lake Brantley High’s athletic director is named the best in Florida
Congratulations to Jerri Kelly, Lake Brantley High School athletic director, recipient of the 2019 Dr. Clarence Noe Outstanding Athletic Administrator of the Year award given by the Florida Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Put simply, that means she’s the top athletic director in the state.
Standing in her office, reflecting on the honor, Jerri points to a bright white shirt hanging in a shadow box near the window.
“This is one of the uniforms Graham Zusi wore when he played in the World Cup for Team USA,” Jerri says, referring to the soccer star who graduated from LBHS.
She then motions toward a collage of photos blanketing her filing cabinet.
“And here’s a photo of Tion (Green) and Pat (DiMarco) when they played against each other in the NFL,” Jerri says, calling out another pair of former Patriots.
Right next to Tion and Pat’s photo is another autographed action shot of Tion with a note that reads, “Thank you so much for all of the support throughout the years. Much Love, #Patriot Pride, #38.”
Each and every piece of memorabilia in Jerri’s office, from framed and autographed photos to signed sports equipment, is accompanied by a personal story. And it only takes one quick glance around the room to realize the lasting impact that Jerri has made and continues to make to this day.
Before professional athletes like Graham Zusi, Tion Green, and Pat DiMarco made their names on athletic fields across the nation, they (and many others) first took a seat in Jerri’s Algebra II class at Lake Brantley. And because of the education they received and the relationship they formed with their former high-school teacher, a special connection remains.
“I still stay in touch with so many athletes, and I think it’s because I had that relationship in the classroom,” says Jerri. “They are all very respectful, unbelievable kids with great families.
Now in her 40th year of education, Jerri views her career in two parts. Her first 20 years were spent teaching high-school math and coaching various sports including volleyball, basketball, softball, and tennis, all while she and her husband Jeff were raising their three children, who were also deeply involved in sports.
And the combined time spent in the classroom, coaching, and watching her kids play is what perfectly prepared Jerri for her next 20 years as Lake Brantley’s athletic director.
“I’ve always loved all aspects of sports, whether it’s coaching, watching as a spectator, or keeping statistics,” says Jerri.
As a parent of athletes, Jerri has had the opportunity to stay connected while still being able to watch her kids participate.
“Our kids were going in all different directions,” says Jerri, whose daughters Corie and Casie excelled in swimming, water polo, and fastpitch softball, while son CJ had a talent for baseball and golf. All three of the Kelly children continued their athletic careers into college.
As athletic director, Jerri has a wide range of daily duties that include handling parent concerns to managing events and organizing fundraisers.
“Weirdly enough, I enjoy it,” laughs Jerri. “I love the organization, event management, and all the details and moving parts. This is a good second half of my career.”
And although she doesn’t build relationships in the classroom anymore, Jerri is inspired by the opportunity she has been given to help more kids reach their goals.
“I always preach that if you want to go to the next level, there are so many opportunities to continue your sport,” says Jerri. “You just need to pick the right college.”
The challenges Jerri encounters most each year are those associated with putting athletes on the right track in order to play after high school. Fortunately, this obstacle is also met by the school’s immensely supportive teachers.
“We have some incredible teachers who will take our kids under their wing and help guide them,” says Jerri, “and we have student athletes in need who are given so much support through members of our community.”
Jerri says she is honored to receive this year’s Outstanding Athletic Administrator award.
“This award means so very much because it was voted on by my peers who I’ve worked so closely with during my career,” she says.
Clay Parnell, Lake Brantley’s swimming coach, says Jerri has been a tremendous asset to LBHS and Seminole County, describing her as a no-nonsense person who takes her job, and its inherent responsibilities, very seriously. Clay also credits Jerri for being the voice of reason in a multitude of issues, solving problems at every level to seek the best possible outcome for all involved.
“Jerri realized early on that the success of our programs is largely determined by the achievement of each coach,” says Clay. “She asks all of us the questions ‘What can I do for you?’ and ‘What do you need?’ She has come to the aid of numerous athletes to help them navigate their course through high school, college, and the struggles of life.”
As always, Jerri’s priority on a daily basis is to educate those she meets about Lake Brantley’s rich history and the importance of being a community school. She’s constantly amazed to see how many of her former athletes have children who now attend Lake Brantley.
“It’s always about educating everyone on our history,” says Jerri, “and I always want someone to work here who cares about that.”
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