Skinner named Clay City’s new athletic director

Friday, June 21, 2024
Harley Skinner

When Jason Sinders was hired onto the Clay City softball coaching staff in 2006, the entire Sinders family bought into everything it meant to be an Eel.

That included his oldest daughter, Harley Skinner, who was known as Harley Sinders until she married her husband Zach in 2020. Skinner was a team captain on the softball team before graduating in 2017 and moving to Indianapolis to begin working towards her Health and Human Science degree at IUPUI.

While in college, Skinner was hired onto Jennifer Jones’ staff at Avon High School, serving as the junior varsity head coach. She then slid into the varsity head coaching role during the winter of the 2020-21 school year. And while her mind was certainly laser focused on getting the most out of the Orioles, Skinner kept a close eye on Clay City at all times.

“I spent six years as a coach at Avon High School. Throughout my time there, I kept my Clay City visor strapped to the backpack. My husband always joked that it was my ‘emotional support visor’ but really, I kept it there to remember how my sports and softball journey began. [It’s] where I learned the skills needed to be a good coach and person and to remember where I wanted to end up,” said Skinner.

Where was it that she ultimately wanted to end back up? Home.

After resigning from her position as head coach at Avon, Skinner, as well as her husband and their two-year-old son, moved back to Clay County, a choice that was a no-brainer for the former Lady Eel. Skinner took up a teaching position at Northview High School and joined her father on the Clay City softball coaching staff where she got to work closely alongside her sister, Lizzy Sinders.

“I love this school and community and knew that I wanted to go back home someday,” she said. “We just never knew when the opportunity would come.”

Skinner, serving as the team’s third base coach, played a role in helping Clay City reach its third straight semi-state this spring. However, during their run, it became known that Clay City athletic director Rachel Kiefer was departing her post to take on a new position at a different school, leaving an opening that Skinner was immediately interested in pursuing.

“When the job became available, I wanted to pursue it because of my love for Clay City High School,” said Skinner. “I grew up in the Eel Dome and on that softball field. My dad began helping coach in some capacity at the high school around 2006 and we have been all in with Clay City Athletics ever since. Even throughout my time as an Avon Oriole, I utilized Eelite Broadcasting and tried to be home for games whenever we could.”

She went through the interview process and impressed the hiring committee, leading to an offer from Clay City principal Michael Owens that Skinner had been dreaming about. It led to her officially becoming the school’s new athletic director after it was approved by the Clay Community School Board last week.

“When Mr. Owens called to offer me the position, I was so excited. I just want to truly give my best to the students, staff and community of Clay City,” said Skinner. “It is a dream come true.”

With the newness of being named the athletic director still lingering, and with Kiefer and assistant athletic director Rodney Smith remaining in their positions for another week, Skinner said there haven’t been any discussions about adjustments or changes she plans to make for the upcoming school year and beyond. However, there have been plenty of talks between Skinner and the outcoming athletic department, which will continue as she gets her bearings, she noted.

“I have already been picking their brains. I have been spending time with them trying to soak up as much information, knowledge and tips and tricks that I can,” Skinner said. “They have done a great job and they have reminded me that they will be just a phone call away. I really appreciate their support throughout the transition and the amazing job they have done in their roles.”

What will help ease Skinner throughout the transition into her new role as athletic director is the familiarity she has with the various teams and the state-of-the-art facilities Clay City has to offer. But more importantly, she’s been around most of the head coaches for years, which includes playing for her dad and Chris Ames, and has formed relationships with them dating back nearly a decade.

“I am very excited to work with our coaches. They put in hours and hours of time for our athletes to be successful and be supported. I feel confident that it will be a great experience to work with so many familiar faces,” said Skinner. “I believe because of my time playing girls basketball for Chris Ames and softball for Jason Sinders, I can attest to the time and hard work that our coaches put in for our athletes.”

There will be some newness along the way too.

Among the most prominent differences for Skinner? Not being on a high school softball field during the spring for the first time ever. But she’s grateful for what the 2024 season gave her and her entire family, which she will hold onto as she enters the world of administration.

“I do not believe that I can do the position to my full ability if I were coaching,” Skinner said. “My plan has always been to go into administration. This has helped me to remember that I won’t be coaching forever. I am forever thankful that I got to spend the year coaching at Clay City with my dad and coaching my sister, Lizzy, before transitioning out of coaching. It was a dream come true to coach the athletes I did at Avon and now this year at Clay City. Coaching will be there waiting for me when I retire.”

The other change? Skinner will be overseeing her dad. She joked that she’s been evaluating Sinders’ coaching tactics for as long as she can remember, so there won’t be anything different moving into the future.

“I jokingly told Mr. Owens that I have been critiquing my dad’s coaching my whole life, so not to worry about that,” Skinner said. “My dad and I both want what is best for Clay City High School and we know that we must – and will – remain professional in ensuring that we are doing what is best for our student-athletes. Being a coach’s kid and a coach has given me great insight into the challenges that our coaches face on a daily basis and the lack of thank yous that they get.”

Along with her title as athletic director, Skinner will also take on the position as Clay City’s assistant principal, working alongside Owens. She’s eager to learn and grow as an administrator alongside him while also supporting him in any area that the school needs from her.

“I am excited to work alongside Mr. Owens,” Skinner said. “Mr. Owens has vast experience and knowledge as a school administrator. I can’t think of anyone better to be mentored and led by. I will focus mainly on discipline, and I will be working to support him in whatever capacity he needs”

Who will be working alongside Skinner as the assistant athletic director with Smith departing the role at the end of the month? That’s still to be determined, she said.

“Rodney Smith has played a vital role in Clay City Athletics my whole life. He bleeds purple and is a great role model, mentor and wants the best for Clay City Athletics. We will miss him greatly and appreciate everything he has done,” said Skinner. “We are planning on continuing the assistant role and are in the process of screening applicants.”

With June more than halfway complete, and the 2024-25 school year rapidly approaching, what will the next several weeks look like for Skinner as she begins her first go-around as the face of the athletic department? Let’s just say, her calendar is filling up quickly.

“The next couple months will consist of me continuing to learn from Rodney and Rachel [as] I find my groove for how I want to make this role my own,” Skinner said. “Our athletic programs have full summers and I plan on getting out to support them immediately. I am looking forward to a great start to the 2024-2025 school year and fall athletics getting underway.”

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