Jon Mellinger has barely had a second to catch his breath, but he wouldn’t rather be anywhere else than at the helm of Archbishop Spalding athletics.
The former Gunston School athletics and transportation head makes the journey from Queen Anne’s County to step into the athletic director role of the largest private school department in Anne Arundel County. He replaces Jeff Parsons, who served as Spalding’s athletic director since 2012 and is now the school’s vice principal.
Mellinger officially stepped into the position about two weeks ago, and into a whirlwind of hundreds of various sports’ summer campers — as well as a community he’s thrilled to be a part of.
“They’re challenging their students to grow spiritually, academically, physically and socially, and that’s what I’m trying to do in the athletic department,” Mellinger said.
Mellinger’s vision of the future of Spalding athletics is that of a brilliant sun’s rays continuing to shine on an already vast kingdom. The high level of competition Spalding participates in as part of the A Conferences of both the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (boys) and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (girls) is part of what drew Mellinger to the job.
But it isn’t as if the Cavaliers programs need any help succeeding in that merciless environment. Softball and golf took home the IAAM A crowns this spring. Spalding boys lacrosse and baseball each made it to each their finals, while football and boys basketball continue to raise players heavily recruited by serious Division I schools, just to name a few.
“When looking at the department, it’s extraordinarily healthy,” Mellinger said. “It’s had tremendous progress and success and the more and more people you talk with, the more and more you want to be a part of it.”
Mellinger’s biggest focuses before private school preseasons kick off in a few weeks include filling a few jobs on the athletics staff as well as hiring a new girls basketball coach. Much of Mellinger’s days right now also includes getting to know all of his coaches.
It delights Mellinger to look at his daily calendar because it means he gets to meet another “friendly face.” That familial, inviting atmosphere Mellinger has felt from the Spalding coaching staff extends to the community at large, too, fueled by a commitment to excellence.
“My department is going to be defined by that level of commitment to the community and competition, where we want to develop leaders,” Mellinger said. “We want them to have positive experiences where they then look back 15, 20 years later and go, ‘that was a life-changing experience and I want that for my family.’ ”
The new athletic director is no stranger to sweeping environments, hailing from one of the biggest divisions in New Jersey, Hunterdon Central Regional, where he competed in indoor and outdoor track and field. Mellinger served as graduate assistant for the Ransom Everglades School, a top Florida private school that had an enrollment size similar to that of Spalding’s. He went on to coach swimming, track and field, boys basketball and triathlon in Florida, Connecticut and Maine before taking the position at Gunston School.
Mellinger, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from St. Lawrence University and a Masters in sports administration from the University of Miami, also worked as an athletic director at the Hyde School in Bath, Maine, for three years.
Spalding’s size doesn’t intimidate Mellinger in the slightest. After all, he said he doesn’t see any job as being too big or too small. Leading a smaller athletics department in Queen Anne’s gave him the chance to experience every task from admissions to facilities management as he had to be hands-on with just about everything.
“Now at Spalding, you have a team, and I think being able to see that from a variety of different standpoints is going to be really great,” Mellinger said.
Gunston’s smaller community allowed Mellinger to grow the athletics as enrollment swelled. In his five years as the Centreville school’s athletic director, Gunston added cross country, golf and triathlon programs — last of which was benefited by the school’s position on the water.
Even though Spalding is very much land-locked, Mellinger isn’t opposed to the idea of bringing his personal sport to his new school. Mellinger runs half-ironman and Olympic-distance triathlons. Really, from his vantage, it’s about what the kids want.
“Spalding continues to get bigger and I don’t think any sport is off the table if it fits the mission of the school and has an interest from the student-athletes,” Mellinger said.
Mellinger can already see how student-athletes’ interest in not only their sports but their school as a whole is the very reason Spalding’s programs are so successful.
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“If you peel the lens back on those programs, what you see immediately is a dedicated group of coaches that are in the gym, on the field, day in and day out and are committed to having those student-athletes be more than just the athlete,” he said. “They’re winning in the classroom, they’re winning in the community, and ultimately, that winning is translating to wins on the field.”