New Willow Canyon athletic director Luedemann in to win

Thom Luedemann was hired as the Willow Canyon athletic director in April. [Courtesy Dysart Unified School District]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Following four years as a school principal in Avondale and Tucson, Thom Luedemann is back in the game.

And the new Willow Canyon athletic director is playing to win.

“Willow Canon High School will be a perennial contender for state championships in all sports. At Willow Canyon we have a winning culture and that is what we will do … we will win,” Luedemann stated in an email.

He was an athletic director for two years, then assistant principal of curriculum and instruction for three in the Tolleson Union High School District. Luedemann then spent a year as the Agua Fria High School principal.

Then he moved to Tucson and served for three school years as Billy Lane Lauffer Middle School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

During the spring, he had a chance to get back to his roots and leapt at it.

“I got into education because it provided me an opportunity to coach. This position takes me back to my true passion and full circle to my purpose. Willow Canyon is a perfect fit for me and I am excited to cultivate our winning culture,” Luedemann stated.

The school in western Surprise was in search of a permanent athletic director. The Dysart Unified School District promoted former AD John Williams to its community education director role as 2018 ended, and Jim Threadgill filled the role on an interim basis early this year.

By the time spring sports ended, Luedemann was in place. Dysart district athletic director Jim Dean stated that 54 people applied, which narrowed to 16 candidates and a group of four applicants selected for the final interview. The district chose Luedemann on April 10.

“Thom has extensive school administration experience and has a passion for successful athletic programs. He is committed to working with the coaches, athletes, parents and community members of Willow Canyon High School to build athletic programs that are state contenders year in and year out in all sports,” Dean stated in an email.

For his part, Luedemann said Dean has an impressive commitment to making sports at all schools in the district successful.

Plus, Luedemann said district superintendent Quinn Kellis has made it clear that his priorities are academics, athletics, and the arts, and shares a similar belief that athletics as an essential cornerstone to the foundation of a strong education system.

To top it off new school principal Adam Schwartz is a former football coach that Luedemann knows well from his years in the Southwest Valley.

“I have known Dr. Schwartz for a number of years and I have always appreciated that he is a winner. After seeing the AD position at Willow Canyon come open I spoke with Dr. Schwartz and it just felt like a good fit for me,” Luedemann stated.

The Wildcats’ new AD and his boss at the district level share a belief that the school is on the precipice of becoming a sports powerhouse.

In recent year, Willow Canyon’s best teams have been in girls sports, led by soccer. Softball reached the final six of the 5A playoffs this spring — the deepest any Wildcats team has played into a state tournament — and basketball and volleyball ended long playoff droughts.

Baseball qualified for the past two play-in rounds. Football and boys basketball were just under .500 and showed signs of promise.

“Willow Canyon High School’s athletic programs are gaining steam quickly. They have programs that are making the state playoffs each year and others that are seeing a positive turnaround in win loss records,” Dean stated. “The Dysart Unified School District is committed to academic, athletic and arts opportunities for our students that lead to successful outcomes. We would like to see Willow Canyon’s programs move deeper into the state playoffs and those sports that have not made the playoffs to begin making playoff appearances. We expect to see our programs at Willow Canyon and all of our high schools competing for state championships year in and year out.”

Luedemann said his prior experience clearly illustrated for me how robust extracurricular offerings have a strong correlation to academic success for every student.

This school year, he and his fellow athletic directors have an advantage the district never possessed before. Dysart just began athletic classes, and is the first West Valley district to do so.

“We have instituted sports academy courses for all team sports which provide our coaches and student/athletes an opportunity that is yet to be realized in Surprise. Willow Canyon has a veteran group of dedicated coaches who give selflessly of themselves to ensure the success of our student-athletes and the student-athletes are working hard to improve in all aspects of sport. The expectation for success and winning culture in athletics the arts, and academics, at all levels, makes Willow Canyon an exciting place to be,” Luedemann stated.

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