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Athletes' friend says goodbye

Barry Adamson knows there's more than winning.

Barry Adamson won't miss scheduling the buses.

He won't miss ordering the uniforms.

He won't miss sweating the details - writing himself note after note, checking and double-checking every last item - of a "dream job" that extends far beyond the Gloucester Township campus of Camden County Technical School.

He will miss walking out to the soccer field on an autumn afternoon, standing on the pool deck on a winter night, and rushing out of his office to see a softball game on a spring day.

"I love athletics," Adamson said in a simple explanation of a career devoted to the students who pull on those uniforms and ride on those buses.

Adamson will retire June 30 after 32 years as the athletic director at Camden County Tech. The longest-tenured AD in South Jersey will be honored tonight at a banquet in Blackwood, where hundreds of coworkers and colleagues as well as family and friends will show their appreciation of a man who never forgot the core principle of his profession: It's about the kids.

"Barry always was an advocate for the student-athlete," said Washington Township athletic director Kevin Murphy, president of the Olympic Conference. "He was there for everybody. He looks at every situation the same way: 'Let's figure out how to best serve the student-athletes.' "

Said NJSIAA associate director Carol Parsons: "Barry always has the best interests of the kids at heart."

Adamson, a Cherry Hill West graduate who went to college in Nebraska, joined Camden County Tech as a health and physical-education teacher in 1971. He became the AD in 1976.

As an administrator at a small school not known for its athletic programs, Adamson became a champion of the underdog. His philosophical approach might seem quaint in many of the more pressurized, competitively successful programs in the Olympic Conference, but it cuts to the core of youth sports.

"I would always tell my coaches, 'Just field a team,' " Adamson said. "OK, so we're not going to win a lot of games. Let's give a lot of kids a chance to play.

"We pretty much have a no-cut policy here, except for situations where it's just impossible. You can't have 72 kids on the boys' basketball team.

"But we want kids to play. OK, so maybe we lose a baseball game by 15-0. But we got three outs an inning, so somebody was making a play. Somebody got a hit for us. There's always positives."

Said Murphy: "Barry doesn't care whether a kid is a state champion or finishes sixth in his event in a dual meet. He treats them all the same."

Adamson estimates that he has scheduled around 5,000 meets at Camden County Tech's pool. He's been the tournament director of the state individual championships for years, working through the logistics of a meet that runs "flawlessly," according to Parsons.

"I can't begin to tell you how much that program is going to miss him," Parsons said of the swimming tournament.

On May 21, in appreciation of Adamson's devotion to swimming, Camden County Tech's board of education surprised him: It renamed the swimming facility "The Barry Adamson Pool."

Adamson has been a tireless advocate for athletes at New Jersey's technical schools, who sometimes are regarded as second-tier competitors by rivals at traditional schools. He was a cofounder of the New Jersey Tech Athletic Group (NJTAG), which was formed in the mid-1980s to allow athletes from technical schools around the state to compete against one another in tournament formats.

"When I got here, we had no trophies, no banners, nothing like that," Adamson said. "The NJTAG gave all of us a fair shot."

Now, Adamson points with pride to the hardware in the glass-enclosed trophy case outside his office and to the NJTAG championship and Olympic Conference and NJSIAA sportsmanship banners hanging in the gymnasium.

An avid golfer, Adamson plans to retire to his home in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He won't miss phone calls from bus drivers at 6 p.m. He will miss learning the names of every athlete at Camden County Tech.

"I just love walking out on the field when our kids are getting ready to play," Adamson said. "I just love it when our kids are warming up. You get to interact with the athletes, watch them grow and develop as individuals.

"Why would you want to do anything else? How could you ask for anything more?"