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SJND Community Bids Farewell to Athletic Director Chris Pondok
For nearly 16 years, SJND Athletic Director Chris Pondok has called the Kelly Gymnasium home, first as a coach for the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Teams, then P.E. teacher and finally, Athletic Director. This spring, the SJND Community says goodbye to Mr. Pondok as he begins his new life in Reno, Nev., with his fiancée, SJND teacher Christina Arias.
Mr. Pondok joined SJND in 2003 as a Coach for the Men’s Freshman Basketball Team and Varsity Assistant. He joined the P.E. Department as a teacher in 2007, and took over the role of Women’s Basketball Head Coach in 2011. That same year, he was hired as the Athletic Director.
Although Mr. Pondok first viewed the Pilots as his rivals (he attended Encinal High School here in Alameda), he notes that early on, SJND very much felt like home.
“It has been a wonderful place to work, and my colleagues, mentors, students and the parents who I’ve had the honor to work with have been amazing,” said Mr. Pondok. “I always tried to work under the auspice of ‘It's for the students,’ and whether it was cooking 400 hotdogs in an hour or driving to Fresno to watch a cross country meet at 8:00 a.m. then driving back for a volleyball game at 8:00 p.m., I always tried to do what was best for our athletes. And it was all worth it,” he explained.
As you can imagine, Mr. Pondok has many fond memories from his 15+ years as a Pilot. From organizing numerous Pasta Dinners, to attending State Championships and teaching hundreds of students in the classroom, above all, the memories that stick out most are from his time coaching.
“I am going to really miss all of the young men and women on the teams I had the pleasure of coaching...My three seasons as the Women’s Varsity Head Coach, I inherited a great program that was full of awesome athletes and people. The young ladies on those teams helped me survive the first couple of years as AD; I dragged them to all of the other sporting events I had to attend. It cost me a pretty penny at In-N-Out but they were good sports about it,” he joked.
“Most of [those athletes] are adults in the real world now, but it's great when they come back and visit. I’d like to tell them, my door is still open to all of you, you just have to drive a little bit now,” Mr. Pondok added.
Students, coaches, and faculty and staff will miss Mr. Pondok’s friendly face, can-do attitude and support at athletic events. For Men’s Basketball Coach Don Lippi, whose first impression of Mr. Pondok was as a coach in his son’s Alameda Youth Basketball League years ago, he will miss their friendship most of all.
“Typically, an Athletic Director is just looked at as a leadership position, but with Chris, he made it a position of being a friend, a father figure, a brother, an equal,” Coach Lippi explained. “To me, he wasn’t an AD; he was my close friend, my confidant and my supporter,” he added.
“SJND has been blessed with over a decade of Mr. Pondok's relentless dedication to the school's student athletes and entire school community. His sense of humor, coupled with his ability to connect with others, is a true gift. Mr. Pondok's genuine care and concern for helping young people learn life lessons through athletics is invaluable. His friendship will be sorely missed but he will always be a part of SJND,” said Julie Guevara, Assistant Principal of Student Life.
While we are sad to see Chris and Christina go, we are ecstatic for them as they set out on their new adventure together!
Please join us on campus on Saturday, May 4 at 5:00 p.m. for a farewell celebration for Chris and Christina. Click here to RSVP.