When Tim Graham took over as Tumwater High School’s athletic director in 1999 one bit of advice has always stuck with him.
“I was always told to be involved. When I got this job, Krast Bransma was in the (Tumwater) district office and talked to me and said, ‘You need to do a great job in your school, but you also need to do a great job at the state and national levels.’ He helped me get involved in all those things and I’ve been involved at all those levels since I got the job.”
Graham’s commitment hasn’t gone unnoticed as he received the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association’s Distinguished Service Award at the National Athletic Directors Conference/NIAAA Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee in December.
Graham, who has worked at Tumwater since 1993 after teaching five years in Eagle Point, Oregon, was nominated for the national award by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
Every state receives one nominee with a recipient from each of the nation’s eight sections being chosen annually for the honor by the NIAAA.
“It’s a great honor because you are recognized by your peers, and that’s the big thing,” Graham said. “I feel fortunate being here at Tumwater High School. I have a great supporting group. My job is to support coaches who do their job to support the kids.”
Graham becomes just the sixth athletic director from Washington to receive the NIAAA’s Distinguished Service Award, which was inaugurated in 1979.
He joins fellow honorees Ed Tingstad of Spanaway (1997), Janice Truant of Spokane (1998), Jim Meyerhoff of Renton (2004), Jim Piccolo of Stanwood (2011) and Bellevue’s Tm Doyle (2013) as award recipients.
In addition to the awards ceremony, where Graham was acknowledged in front of approximately 1,200 attendees, the National Athletic Directors Conference also features a five-day workshop with a total of 43 four-hour courses which have been national accredited.
Graham is a member of the national faculty and taught three classes during the conference, two of which he designed, including sessions on student center character development and fundamentals of high school public relations.
Prior to accepting the AD position with the Thunderbirds, Graham was Tumwater’s head baseball coach and served as an assistant coach on the T-Birds’ football and wrestling teams.
“He always backs us up with everything,” said Alyssa Vogt, who Graham hired as the T-Birds’ girls basketball coach three years ago. “Every team gets the same treatment as the other teams and that’s what you want in an athletic director. He’s always positive. He’s here to encourage us. He’ll show up at practice and games to support us. He just wants everyone to have fun and have a good experience, and that’s what high school sports are all about.”
During Graham’s tenure as AD, Tumwater athletics has enjoyed an abundance of success on the field. Since his hiring, the baseball team has made six trips to the state tournament, finishing second in 2013 and third in 2014, boys basketball has made five state appearances while capturing the program’s only two league championships, girls basketball has advance to state six times with a state runner-up finish in 2007 and the boys and girls soccer teams have earned state playoff spots two and six times, respectively.
The football team has notched 12 trips to the state playoffs, including a state title in 2010, with the fastpitch team winning a state championship in 2006 and the volleyball squad securing three state titles (2008, 2014 and 2016) over that same span.
“I’ve just been very fortunate to be a part of this school,” Graham said. “Everyone here is working hard for each other. It’s a great place to be and the consistency we’ve had in your staffs has certainly helped.”