The student news site of Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif.

Whitney Update

The student news site of Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif.

Whitney Update

The student news site of Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif.

Whitney Update

Mr. Nick French resigns from athletic director position after three years, Mr. Erich Means hired in his place

In second period Unified Sports, Mr. Nick French talks to Bella Pool. French resigned from the athletic director position March 13 to be more present with the classes he teaches, like Unified Sports, as well as be available for his family and the basketball program, for which he is head men’s varsity coach. Mr. Erich Means has been hired as the new athletic director for the 2024-25 school year. Photo by Isabella Tomasini

With more than 1,400 student athletes on campus, 27 different sports and over 120 coaching staff, the athletic director position is a lot to juggle — a responsibility Mr. Nick French took over in 2021. Now, French has decided to step away from the position as announced in an email sent to staff March 13.

“This job really requires someone to be 100% athletic director,” French said. “Being a head coach and being athletic director, along with being a dad and a husband, is a lot. It requires someone’s 100% attention, and when you’re a head coach and athletic director and a teacher, you just can’t do that.” 

French began as athletic director back in the 2021-22 school year, after Mr. Jason Feuerbach left to work as Associate Commissioner for the CIF

“Feuerbach had started the school year and then left after the first or second football game, and being in the middle of football season is absolutely insane,” Athletic Secretary Mrs. Carrie Schlenz said. “He [French] got thrown into that and had to learn on the fly.”

French communicated and coordinated with coaching staff, connected with student athletes and managed all facets of athletics on campus, but he found out how to manage it all as time went on.

“This is the kind of job that you don’t really know how things go until you go through it,” French said. “It’s very hard because you got to put a lot of time into everything you do, especially if you work hard. It was like I had a crash course in time management, and I didn’t always do a good job with that.” 

French said he had known that he had wanted to resign after the end of basketball season, due to the stress of juggling multiple commitments. 

“The hard part was, and is, that I’m putting time into things that have nothing to do with basketball, and I’m not home,” French said. “I felt like – for the first time – I had let my basketball program and my players down this year because I wasn’t present. I couldn’t give them what I was used to giving to them. I felt like I couldn’t give everything to the athletes on campus, and the coaches — there’s just not enough time in the day. Then, at the end of the day, I was letting my wife down because I wasn’t there to help her. That weighed really [heavily] on me.” 

Regardless of the challenges, French said he was proud of how the department continued in its successes, especially due to the strength of athletes, coaching staff and Schlenz.

“I think the biggest success would be that the athletic department didn’t really skip a beat,” French said. “We’ve enjoyed a lot of success in the last few years. I think it has a lot to do with the coaches and the athletes on campus, as well as Schlenz. We got to experience a lot of really cool things, a lot of championship games, a lot of really happy kids and happy coaches. Winning the Cal High Sports D-2 School of the year was a big deal, too, and that’s a bigger deal than people are ever going to realize.” 

Closing the door to this chapter of his career, French said he’s looking forward to reconnecting with students in the classroom as well as being more available for his basketball program. 

“I’ve done more in my role as a basketball coach in the last week and a half than I did in the last year,” French said. “I’ve been super excited about that. I’m also really excited to get back into the special education field and Unified Sports and all those kinds of things I did before this because that’s what I love to do.” 

Moving forward, the department will be led by Mr. Erich Means, who was selected for the position after three hours of interviewing March 14 by Assistant Principal Mrs. Penelope Shelton, Principal Mr. Scott Collins, Coach Ana Jones, Schlenz, Mr. Zac McNally, Mrs. Kari Ustaszewski and Whitney Athletic Booster Vice President John Reedy. Means, an original staff member on campus, has served in multiple leadership positions, including as assistant principal in 2020, department chair for more than a decade and has been the men’s varsity volleyball coach for six years. 

“I think this is kind of the evolution of my career,” Means said. “I’ve been teaching in the classroom for 20 years now, and I think that this is just the natural progression to want to move along the proverbial ladder. For me, it takes pieces that I enjoy and I’ve been coaching here for a long time; it takes that piece – the athletic side – and then some of the leadership stuff.” 

The position is now full-time across the Rocklin Unified School District, after a committee from August to November rewrote the job description with input from French’s experience.

“The goal back in the fall was to make sure that our student athletes get somebody who was full-time and who is just dedicated to all the sports with that,” Shelton said. “After basketball season was over, and we looked at it, it was always a possibility French might step down in order to allow for somebody else to step in full-time to give the kids what they deserve.”

When the 2024-25 school year begins, students will no longer find French in the athletic office, but he isn’t leaving campus — he’ll still be teaching the Living On Your Own class and assisting the special education department. Means, however, will no longer be an AP Biology or biology teacher, leaving a spot open.

“I’m super ecstatic [that Means has been hired],” French said. “It was the best possible thing that could happen for the athletic department. When we’re talking about the ideal athletic director that would be full-time on campus and what we really need, he’s the perfect guy. I had a great experience in this role, and at the end of the day, all we really care about is our athletes having a great experience.” 


with additional reporting by DESIREE MONTEJANO

More to Discover