Big shoes to fill: Danielle Turner (right) at the 2013 Northeast Sports Awards Banquet with Nazareth Principal Sister Mary Joan and softball player Molly Scullion. Turner is now the athletic director at Central Bucks South. TIMES FILE PHOTO
When one is lucky enough to hold a job he or she truly loves, moving on to a new challenge is never easy. But sometimes, the next logical career progression brings about the need for change, and this has recently been the case for two area high school athletic directors.
For Danielle Turner, Nazareth Academy has meant everything to her. A 1999 graduate of the school, Turner returned after college to become a coach, teacher and assistant athletic director in 2004. Two years later, Turner became Nazareth’s athletic director, a position she has held for the last eight years.
In her time at the helm, the Pandas experienced all kinds of athletic success, from the school’s dominant softball program that is a perennial favorite to win the Catholic Academies League and District 1 to the basketball and swimming teams participating in the state playoffs, gaining the school’s athletics more exposure on a broader stage. Turner also helped establish a new fitness center at the school, replaced old scoreboards and re-modeled Nazareth’s gymnasium.
Not only that, but the school symbolizes family to her, as Turner wed her husband, John, the school’s head basketball coach, during her tenure as Nazareth’s athletic director.
However, something inside of her told Turner that she was ready for a new challenge, and she found it at Central Bucks South, where she has been named the third athletic director in school history, a position she will officially begin on July 1.
“It’s certainly bittersweet,” she said. “When I was putting together the booklets for our banquet, I saw all of the athletics program’s accolades on one piece of paper and it reminded me that we’re coming off the best year Nazareth as a whole has ever had. But I do feel like I’m leaving the program at a good time and in a good place, and the opportunity at Central Bucks South was one I couldn’t pass up.”
Replacing Turner is a familiar face at Nazareth. Dan Bradley was an assistant JV soccer coach when Turner was a student at Nazareth in the mid- to late-’90s. When Turner became the head soccer coach during her time as athletic director, she brought Bradley back as an assistant; when she decided to step down and focus full time on her athletic director duties, Turner passed the baton to Bradley, who has been the head soccer coach at Nazareth the last two years.
In addition to his experience at Nazareth, Bradley has served as the athletic director of New Foundations Charter School the last four years. Prior to that, he had no experience as an athletic director, and said that Turner’s guidance has helped prepare him for his new position.
“It’s bittersweet for me, too,” Bradley said. “I’m leaving New Foundations, a place where I started the athletics program from scratch. It’s been my baby. Danielle, she’s been my mentor, even though she’s younger than me. When I became an AD four years ago, I had no experience. Danielle was always a phone call away. When I didn’t know how to handle something, I asked her. She was always professional and always had the best interests of the kids in mind. I’m sad to see her leave, and she’s a great person. She guided me through this, and without her support and help, I’m not sure I would have been able to build from the ground up.”
At Central Bucks South, Turner inherits a student body of about 1,800, compared to around 500 at Nazareth. She will be able to oversee more teams, simply due to the fact that her new school is co-educational. It also allows Turner to move to a PIAA Class AAAA school that competes in the highly-regarded Suburban One League. Central Bucks South offers athletics for 22 boys and girls teams, and is known for being particularly strong in field hockey, boys indoor and outdoor track, boys and girls basketball, girls soccer, softball and wrestling.
Central Bucks South received its first individual state champion in the school’s inaugural year of 2004, and in 2012 the softball program was the first team sport to bring a state title back home to Warrington, Bucks County, where the campus is located.
“I think the challenge is what drew me to Central Bucks South,” Turner said. “It’s double the amount of sports we have at Nazareth. I’m excited about Friday night football games; it’s something new and exciting for me. I’ve been at Nazareth for 10 years now, and it just felt like it was time.”
As for her replacement, Turner raved about Bradley’s vision and work ethic.
“He was with me for five years all while becoming the athletic director at New Foundations,” she said. “When I gave up soccer two years ago, he was the candidate of choice. He has knowledge of the PIAA as well as the ins and outs of being an athletic director. He’s the best fit. He knows and loves the school and is very invested in our girls.”
Bradley was honored to be chosen to oversee the athletics program in what is a very tight-knit community.
“They’re so accepting that I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Bradley said of Nazareth. “It’s a community where everyone roots for each other, and not just in sports. That’s what makes it special. You can have a scared freshman come in who knows nobody, and then see how that person is immediately accepted by the rest of the kids.”
Bradley said he still plans to coach soccer in the fall, saying he doesn’t want to relinquish a program he believes is heading in the right direction.
“I think it was time for me to leave and tackle this new challenge,” Bradley said. “And it’s just a great group of kids. The academics are top-notch, and obviously the school has had a lot of success. I just want to continue that and hopefully get the school to another level. I’m just thrilled. It really is a dream job for me.”
As for Turner, she was enjoying some last-minute time off before her new job begins next week.
“I think the thing I’m going to miss most about the girls and community as a whole is that sense of family,” she said by phone while en route to the Jersey Shore on Tuesday morning. “When I was taking apart my office the other day, it was just covered in pictures from the last decade. It was sad, and while I can’t physically bring the kids with me, they’ll always be in my heart.
“I think they were disappointed when they first heard, but Nazareth was happy with what I was able to accomplish. I went to school there, and the things I learned I took with me, and I feel they were very proud of me in that respect. The support from the staff has been overwhelming, and I truly felt like I was appreciated there. Obviously, my husband was a huge supporter and encouraged me to apply for and move forward with this new job. It’s been a great support system, and I’ll miss it, but I hope to bring a little bit of Nazareth Academy to Central Bucks South.” ••