Step into Lance Quessenberry’s office at Summit Christian Academy and you’ll see mementos and memories from his many years of coaching baseball. Team pictures. Autographed bats. Even a poster or two celebrating the World Series champion Royals.
But this isn’t a coach’s office, and that’s taken some getting used to for Quessenberry. For the first time in his 20-year career he’s an athletic director, guiding a growing program in the shadow of the man who built it practically from the ground up.
Now that he has one season under his belt, his comfort level is starting to rise.
“The hardest thing about fall was that I didn’t know anybody,” Quessenberry said. “Even my coaches I didn’t know. But now that I’ve been able to make some connections there and some relationships, that’s made things a lot easier.”
Quessenberry, 43, was tabbed last August to replace Jake Kates, who stepped down after 12 years on the job. Kates, who is still SCA’s boys basketball coach, added six sports and saw three of them make state tournament appearances during his tenure.
Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. But Quessenberry said he isn’t here to fill anyone’s shoes.
“Any time I talk to anybody about Coach Kates, I just tell them I respect the guy deeply because I really don’t know how he got everything done,” Quessenberry said. “What he did accomplish here and what he was able to get done was truly remarkable.
“I don’t try to fill anybody’s shoes. I just try to do the job the best I can. Some people are going to feel it’s good; others won’t think it’s good but that’s all right.”
Most of the souvenirs in Quessenberry’s office come from his nine years as baseball coach at Evangel University in Springfield, a job he took after spending 10 years teaching and coaching in public schools. While he enjoyed leading his players on the field, he was finding other parts of the job less enjoyable.
“The college level is a little different because recruiting is the main thing,” Quessenberry said. “My assistant coaches did most of the coaching and I was taking care of the recruiting and all the other things I didn’t get into coaching for.
“After a while … I guess you could say I burnt myself out just trying to stay on top of the recruiting part of it. I was the only one I could trust to get the kids I wanted.”
Quessenberry knew he was ready for a career change, and during his job search he called up an old friend: John Gage, the baseball coach at SCA and softball coach at Lee’s Summit North. Gage was an assistant coach at Southwest Baptist when Quessenberry played there, and his son, Jared, played first base for Quessenberry at Evangel. Quessenberry wanted Gage’s advice about another job opening he had heard about in the Kansas City area.
“I told him I might end up here in this area and he said, ‘Hey, our athletic director position is open,’” Quessenberry said. “Soon as I heard that I was interested and jumped on it. It was kind of funny, because I probably might have not known about it if Coach Gage hadn’t told me because the web sites I was looking at didn’t have anything from Summit Christian on them.”
Since he is still settling in to his new job and surroundings, Quessenberry doesn’t have any immediate plans for major changes to the program. He said he wants to spend the first year sitting back and seeing how everything works. He doesn’t anticipate adding anymore sports soon, although there is interest in starting a tennis program.
But he already sees one major issue that he believes needs to be addressed. As the school and the athletic department have grown, the facilities haven’t kept pace. SCA doesn’t have a weight room, its tiny gym only has room for bleachers on one side and the wrestlers work out in the elementary school commons area.
“Our school’s bursting at the seams,” Quessenberry said. “Not only from an athletic standpoint but from an academic standpoint, we’re just out of room. If we really want to grow to this next level we’re going to have to make some additions to some of our facilities and make them on par with some of the other schools in the area.”
Quessenberry realizes these changes will take time and money, and he’s fine with that. He’s in no hurry; he’s just getting started, after all.
“This has been a good move for me,” Quessenberry said. “I’m really enjoying what I’m doing.”