Northampton Athletic Director Lauren McFarland eager to start year

  • Lauren McFarland, the new athletic director at Northampton High School, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 at the school's track. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lauren McFarland, the new athletic director at Northampton High School, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 at the school's track. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 9/14/2020 5:53:50 PM

It’s been a busy summer for Lauren McFarland, but she cleared her first hurdle at Northampton High School when the first-year athletic director gained approval from the school committee last week to offer fall sports.

Though McFarland said there will be a minor delays due to other schools deciding if they will have sports this fall, she believes that field hockey, soccer, golf and cross country at Northampton will commence by Oct. 1.

“COVID is something to be aware of,” she said. “It can alter a season, even a year for any student-athlete. With that said, I am very willing to adjust (to cancellations), as long as our school committee allows it.”

Athletics is nothing new for the Solvang, California, native, who played “every sport under the sun” growing up. However, it was a new sport during her high school junior year that made a difference.

“The track coach at my high school came to some of my basketball games and said ‘hey, if you want to be a better basketball player, you should come train in the offseason,’” McFarland said.

She ran the 400-meter hurdles her senior year.

“It was a skill that I developed slowly,” she chuckled.

McFarland wound up running track at Division III Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. She ran four years for the Kingsmen and was a member of the school’s record-breaking 4x400 relay.

Her passion for athletics came during a bump in her career.

“I got injured in my senior year, so I decided to redshirt,” she said. “I planned to compete while in grad school but lucky me, I blew out my ACL playing intramural flag football, so my coaches were really thrilled with me on that one.”

It was during this time when McFarland found her passion for coaching.

“During senior year, I started interning as a strength and conditioning coach and I really fell in love with it,” she said. “Seeing so many different athletes and their different routines was so cool to me.”

She graduated in 2013 with a master’s degree in education. When she left college, McFarland committed to working in high school athletics, first at La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks, then at Maranatha High School in Pasadena. She served as coach of the cross country and track & field teams at both schools.

The big move to Massachusetts, however, came when her husband, Jack, got a new job in Springfield.

“My husband originally worked for the Los Angeles Kings as the director of ticket sales,” she said. “He got stuck in middle management and was then offered an opportunity to go down a level to the American Hockey League.”

The commissioner’s office for the AHL was hiring a director for team business services. Jack took the opportunity and the McFarlands moved to the Pioneer Valley in November 2019.

With Jack working in the commissioner’s office, Lauren took a job as a trainer in a local gym. Through that position, she learned about all the different schools that surrounded Springfield.

“I tried to quickly learn about the local school districts,” Lauren McFarland said. “When you train a bunch of moms, all they talk about is where their kids go to school, so I utilized that job a lot to ask clients what schools were good in the area. Overall, I had a lot of positive direction being pointed toward Northampton.”

During the COVID-19 quarantine McFarland rigorously applied for school jobs. She was hired in July to replace interim AD Mark Morrison, who took over when Kara Sheridan was named associate principal in 2019.

Northampton opens the academic year remotely on Wednesday. McFarland cannot wait to be back with students, who can begin practice on Friday.

“I love students. I love how goofy they are, I love seeing the transformation from freshman to senior year, as well as how they learn to play sports,” she said. “I also enjoy seeing them learn about their decision-making skills when they get those ‘a-ha’ moments.”

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