Athletes at The Pine School in Hobe Sound will be greeted in the fall by a new leader—with a lot of wins under his belt. Jeff Shirk, who will start his new gig as athletic director this summer, comes to the school from Washington College in Maryland, where he led the men’s lacrosse team to an NCAA Division III Tournament as head coach and also served as assistant athletic director since 2014.
For Shirk, working with student athletes is about more than just sports. He aims to make sure every student receives a well-rounded education by combining athletics, academia, and the arts. “My philosophy is a character-based approach to education,” says Shirk, 43, who grew up in New Jersey. “I want to develop the whole person through consistent routines that create an environment of integrity, compassion, confidence, teamwork, and leadership.”
At Washington College, his achievements have been recognized and highly rewarded. In his first season coaching the men’s lacrosse team, Shirk—who holds a master’s degree in athletic administration from Arkansas State University and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Maryland—led the team to its first win over a nationally ranked opponent in three years. The following season, he was named Centennial Conference Coach of the Year, taking the team to a first-place win in the regular conference for the first time since 2004 and landing them a spot in the Centennial Conference Championship Game and the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time since 2008. His success continued throughout the 2014 season, when he was named the NCAA III Men’s Lacrosse Coach of the Year by the influential athletic website CaptainU.
He also implemented a new strategic plan for Washington College’s athletic department and helped create a successful fundraising model. Before joining Washington, Shirk, a lifelong lacrosse player, was associate athletic director at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island, head lacrosse coach at Virginia Military Academy, and assistant lacrosse coach at Brown University and the University of Maryland.
As he moves his family (wife, Liz, and their three children) to Florida, Shirk says he is excited about his new endeavor. “I want to get to know everyone at The Pine School, then analyze the existing programs before I find ways to improve them so we can do better in strengthening Pine athletics,” he says. “I have lots of connections through my experience and want to bring all of that with me.”
His eagerness to lead the students at Pine—who range from kindergarteners to twelfth-graders—corresponds with a passion for watching his own children grow up. “I have been so busy in the past few years that I missed some of my oldest daughter’s events because I was covering college games,” he says. “I didn’t want to wake up and realize that I have missed everything. All three of my kids will be enrolled at Pine, so I will get to be around them every day.”
In addition to lacrosse, The Pine School offers soccer, basketball, tennis, golf, track, swimming, and volleyball. Shirk says he believes he won the job over other candidates because of his approach to developing the whole person and ensuring that all students live up to their potential to achieve academic success through consistent routines and embracing the benefits of positive role models.
“My values and goals align with what this school is all about,” he says. “Right from the beginning, we were a good fit. I am super excited about coming to Pine.”