Jamie Sims knows his “why.”
“My true and my first passion was always sports and athletics. That is my why — because I love athletics. I am a former athlete but I’m an athlete at heart. I love the character development. I love mental health. I love the overall aspect of the way that education-based athletics play on an individual and a student,” Sims told Madison365 almost exactly one year after starting his new position as Middleton Athletic Director in July 2020.
He saw transitioning from principal of Blackhawk Middle School to athletic director as an opportunity. High school sports were shut down and it was unknown when students would be able to play again.
He could take that time to demonstrate his ability and passion and to build relationships with people, with staff, and with students.
And to gain some clout, he said.
Since moving to Madison in 2015 from Georgia, Sims has catapulted his career in education starting as a dean of students at Black Hawk, to assistant principal, to principal before becoming the athletic director in Middleton.
He attributes some of that success to the education-based athletic programs that shaped him as a kid.
“A big part of my own leadership style is being able to lead in a way in which the people that I work with, or serve, and the people I work for know my why, and they know my purpose and they know my passion,” he said.
Sims took over the role after former athletic director Bob Joers died May 15 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last fall. He has been working with new assistant athletic director Ben White who was the Cardinals’ boys volleyball coach for 19 years.
Sims’s role involves running all the 29 athletic programs, supporting over 120 staff members and 1,800 students in Middleton. He also is in charge of hiring, program structures, supporting booster clubs and school organizations.
At this point in his career, he said, he is hoping to have positive, long-term impacts on students and adults.
“It stretches beyond sports and playing,” Sims said. “But for me, it’s also making sure that I’m incorporating year-long professional learning and professional development for my staff so that they understand the education component.
“I really learned that to have the impact that I always wanted to, and can’t always have with all kids, having that opportunity to work with adults helps to stretch that influence of impact with students,” he later added.
In addition to valuing staff development, Sims calls himself a social warrior in racial equity.
“This work is needed for all of us, all of our staff members, all of our students, all of our communities, because of the impact that we’re able to have when we have a true understanding of our own identity and how we present ourselves in places or spaces where it has an impact on student growth, development and learning — the better off we are when it comes to building up our youth (and influencing) what they do inside of our buildings,” Sims said. “And more importantly, what they do when they’re outside of our building.”