Career Conversations

A career in recreation wasn’t on Paul McCulloch’s radar while growing up until a conversation with a friend changed his thinking—and ultimately his life.

“It all started when I was 18, and a friend asked me to help him coach a youth baseball team,” McCulloch recalls. “It was the same league that I grew up playing in, and it paved the way for me to think about a career that wasn’t in the plan.”

That unexpected career path has led him to be the athletic director for the city of North Myrtle Beach (S.C.), a position he has held for more than 2 years.

“I enjoy having the opportunity to work with kids and see them grow up,” says McCulloch, whose department provides programming for nearly 2,000 participants, ages 4 to 15, annually.

Here’s what else McCulloch has to say about the rewarding and challenging job of administering youth-sports programs:

Fred: What’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to youth sports?

Paul: Parents’ behavior when their child’s team loses. The first thing they say is that they were cheated or the officiating was bad. They never want to give the other team any credit.

Fred: Who is the person you most admire?

Paul: My dad because he would do anything for anybody. I try to follow his lead on this and help out whenever somebody needs something.

Fred: What is the toughest decision you’ve ever had to make?

Paul: I had to remove a coach one time who had failed his background check. The coach was 35 years old, and the only blemish on his record was an incident when he was 17 and performing as a volunteer fireman. My department didn’t have an appeal process, so the incident disqualified him from coaching.

Fred: How have your own youth-sports experiences affected how you approach your job today?

Paul: I try to remember it is always about the kids, but sometimes hard decisions do have to be made. But at the end of the day, did I give every child the opportunity to play?

Fred: Share one story that puts a smile on your face that makes all the hard work and long hours worthwhile.

Paul: Being the tournament director for four Dixie Softball World Series. When I look back at all of the work associated with these tournaments, it really makes me proud. Because people drive halfway across the country, I don’t want them to feel like it’s just another tournament. I want them to build memories that will last a lifetime.

Fred: What would you like to see more of in your programs?

Paul: The girls’ leagues have had a huge decline during the last 10 years, but there has finally been an increase in numbers and I hope that trend continues.

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla. He can be reached via email at To join more than 3,000 communities by starting a NAYS chapter, visit or contact Emmy Martinez at or (800) 729-2057.