Talk about being asked to hit the ground running.
During ideal circumstances, there’s a certain expectation of a bit of a grace period for people when starting a new job.
That’s definitely not the case for the last two CIF Central Section commissioners, where starting during difficult times should be added to the job description.
With growing concerns looming about how to safely reopen schools in the fall, Ryan Tos is experiencing that firsthand after taking over as section commissioner on Wednesday. He replaces Jim Crichlow, who retired following a 19-year reign that started a few months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“It definitely will have its unique challenges, but then again I think back when Jim started, he had 9/11 to deal with his first couple months on the job, as well,” said Tos, who spent the past five years as the assistant commissioner for the Sac Joaquin Section. “And I was coaching back then and I remember the chaos of all that. So I don’t know if there’s ever a perfect time to come in, but it is what it is right now.”
Although decisions about how, when and if high school sports can return will be made in the next few weeks, Tos has had his hands full in the past few weeks just establishing a homebase.
The section office typically follows the commissioner. It’s been located in Porterville with Crichlow for nearly two decades, but is moving to Fresno to be closer to Tos’ home. His first day on the job was typical.
“It’s good I have experience setting up office furniture, I’ll put it that way,” joked Tos, who graduated from Reedley-Immanuel and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Fresno Pacific and Master’s from California University of Pennsylvania. “That was a great summer job a long time ago. The experience came in handy today.
“Over the last couple of weeks we’ve taken a couple of U-Haul loads from Porterville. Today I’ve been assembling desks, moving furniture, putting away office supplies. Tomorrow, I’m hoping to tackle computers so I can stop using my laptop for everything. It’s kind of the nuts and bolts of the job today.”
In between his moving, Tos’ first day on the job included a conference call with the state’s other section commissioners, all in hopes of answering some difficult questions in the coming weeks.
“It’s just such a unique time,” said Tos, who was president-elect for the Central Section and vice president of the California State Athletic Directors Association while an AD at Lemoore and Visalia-Central Valley Christian high schools. He also coached men’s basketball at CVC for four years.
“People have made comments like, ‘oh, what a rough time to take a new job and change positions.’ But you know, it’s the way it is and it’s this way for a reason. None of us are choosing to be in the middle of a pandemic, but I guess for one reason or another, this is part of the master plan and we’re all going to learn through it. This too shall pass. I find myself saying that more often than not these days.”
Tos is also quick to point out that the challenges the section faces restarting athletics pales in comparison to what educators are dealing with during the pandemic.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but to be completely honest, I think the challenge is so much greater for our teachers, principals and superintendents,” Tos said. “The role of trying to figure out how you’re going to deliver education in this current setting is much more challenging than playing games.
“But my whole job deals with the games, so obviously I want the games to come back, but I’m sure those administrators have got to be so stressed, between the spring and graduations and now trying to figure out how they’re going to deliver an education this fall.”
To that end, Tos realizes his new position is not a one-man job.
“As the commissioner I think there’s the general perception that the commissioner and his staff get to do anything they want to,” Tos said. “But really, we just work for the schools. And we try to enforce the bylaws that the schools vote on and things like that.
“Being in the middle of a pandemic, that does change things a little bit. I think people are looking a little bit more for maybe some decisions to be made from either local or section leadership. But one of the best parts about working for CIF across the state is the quality of the people I get to work with. The other commissioners and state office staff. They’ve already been such a huge help to me and I’m sure that they will be moving forward.”
Although challenges days lay ahead, Tos feels he’s up for the task.
“I’m excited to be where I am and I’m really excited to be in this position,” Tos said. “I don’t think any of us would wake up and go, ‘oh, I’m so happy that I’m facing the current challenges we’re facing.’ That isn’t my frame of mind. But if we’re going to have to face these challenges, I might as well try to have a positive attitude and a positive outlook on things.”