Q&A with Athletic Director Joe Welsh


Why did you want the Athletic Director job?

I had a bunch of other parents and people in the community say “Hey, you should look at the Athletic Director job, you’d be a great fit, we need someone with diplomacy for this job,” which is true. So I talked to my family about it and we thought this could be a perfect fit because I just love coaching and my only concern was I love the teacher-student connection they have because it’s more intimate. I realized in this role I can have a big effect on the student athlete population and still be involved in coaching, which is good.

Before Piedmont, what were your other careers?

I was an All-American water polo player. That was the highlight of my college experience. My first job out of college I was a sales representative for a startup in the sports arena called Active.com, so I learned early how entrepreneurship works. Eventually I went back to Business School at UCLA to get my MBA, thinking I was going to start my own company, but I got recruited by IBM. My love had always been international affairs, and I was always reading The Economist and these nerdy international affairs magazines. There’s something called the Foreign Service Exam, and I scored high enough to be accepted as a diplomat. That was kind of like a life dream of mine and I probably would have done it forever if it wasn’t for family considerations. So I did it for 7 years, and my first post was in Togo, West Africa, running the embassy there. I was always very involved with the public affairs, which was working with the media and doing cultural outreach to teach people about US culture. Then I went to Norway, and what I really loved was working with our intelligence folks in the embassy and our partners in Norway to combat violent extremism. I’ve been coaching a lot since I’ve been back in the Bay Area for the last couple years, club water polo and USA Olympic development program water polo, helping pick the junior national teams.

What will you bring to the role?

I am focused on making the athletics run smoothly. It’s going to take me awhile to get on track, my first priority is to hire an Assistant Athletic Director. So I’m trying to get someone in that position as soon as possible because that’s the administrative side and that’s the side I would love to spend less time on so I can focus on the strategic end of things, like helping the students and helping the coaches become better coaches, which is what I really want to do in this role. I have some fun ideas, and I have to say Adam Littlefield and Eric Mapes and Irma are all very supportive, and I’m very excited about that. I want to get input from everybody and get to know everybody, so in general, my first responsibility is to make sure everybody knows I can help and can keep the programs running. After that I can focus on what little fun things we can do to make it better.

Have there been any hardships so far?

It’s a challenge to learn a new job. I came in and everyone wants to tell me something right off the bat. I’m used to being in control and organized and prepared, and it got so overwhelming. I’m really excited for the challenge of making everything organized and running smoothly. I’m enjoying myself.

What’s one thing the student body should know about you?

I’m a really enthusiastic guy that’s a kid at heart. So I want to get to know students and what the water polo team would tell you is that I will support you guys 150 percent. For my water polo players, they know that they can come to me for anything and I will always have their back. The reason I’m doing this job rather than a high paying Silicon Valley job is because I love working with high school students, and I want you guys to succeed in life. I’m very open and available and that’s what I want the students to know.

What are you most excited about?

Piedmont is such a small community so I’m most excited about becoming a part of that community. In the sports community, I want us all to be supportive of one another. I feel like the attitude is there for that and I want to promote that. Every sports team is a team, but if you broadened out even further, you would see that this is really a team here at the school and we should all support each other.