March 25, 2022
Tooling Around In Retirement
In the storage room off the basketball gym is a white table used for taping up the sore and misaligned muscles of athletes. That taping table was the first thing Paul Weir made when he arrived at Glenelg Country School (GCS) as an athletic trainer in the 1997–1998 school year, but it remains as a testament to the lasting legacy of the athletic program that Weir built.
Weir retired as athletic director last June after 23 years at GCS. He was appointed athletic director in 2013 after serving as associate athletic director for three years.
The decision to retire wasn’t easy, after Weir’s many years with the school. “I felt like it was time for me to move on to a new chapter in my life,” says Weir. “I’ve had some good memories at GCS along the way.”
A certified athletic trainer, EMT, and strength and conditioning coach, Weir was invited to GCS by the then-athletic director, Al Poklemba, who asked him to start an athletic training program at the school. Weir had worked with more than 100 coaches and established a similar program at a private school in Potomac, MD, and had worked with Poklemba previously.
“He really valued making sure that athletes were safe and healthy, which was my area of expertise at the time,” Weir recalls.
Weir was handed the opportunity to fulfill his desire to build an athletic training program from the ground up. But the amenities were far from perfect. Weir says they found a closet-sized dressing room in the Middle School across the hall from the Mulitz Theater that stored costumes and stage props and converted it into a training room.
He built the white table and secured a few treatment tables from McDonough School. “One of those treatment tables is now in the cold Whirlpool area of the athletic training room in the new facility, so there’s some history there,” says Weir.
GCS was seemingly a world away from what Weir was used to having at the sports medicine clinics he’d worked for, where all the equipment and supplies needed to help with rehabbing athletes were at his disposal. He was starting from scratch, but he saw it as a challenge.
Trash cans were used for Whirlpool and contrast baths for athletes with sprained ankles and other injuries. “We were pretty effective in doing some rehab out of that spot. I went from that to learning how to be creative,” Weir says.
Weir and his staff worked out of the little room until the new athletic center opened in 2004. The head of school at the time, Rye Chapman, advised Weir four years earlier that the school was building a new facility and encouraged him to stick around. A fantastic reward came from those humble beginnings: the opportunity to provide input on the new center’s design of the training room, fitness center, and other amenities. “It was awesome,” he remembers.
A University of Maryland kinesiology grad, Weir drew upon his experience as a university clinic intern to know what was needed and used that knowledge in the planning process.
Today, Weir reminisces about the school, which had a smaller student body and staff than today. He taught health classes for fifth, sixth, and seventh grades and later led a ninth-grade fitness unit when the new fitness center opened.
“The early days were an awesome time at GCS,” he says. “Mr. Chapman, our headmaster, was an amazing guy. He would go to every athletic contest and watch them with me.”
Chapman also encouraged Weir to complete his master’s degree in education at Towson University.
“Mr. Chapman did a good job at creating this atmosphere and culture, a strong learning environment, and he knew that you needed a strong faculty and people working directly with the students. So, he was always encouraging us as a faculty and staff to improve ourselves, to continue to grow.”
After Chapman’s retirement, Greg Ventre, then the head of school, gave Weir the opportunity to lead the athletic department, first as the associate athletic director working with athletic director Nan Hambrose and then as athletic director. It was the first time a licensed athletic trainer was promoted to athletic director in either the MIAA or IAAM league.
Together, Weir and Ventre built a robust, competitive athletic program at GCS. “Greg was very supportive and believed in me,” said Weir. “One of our most lasting accomplishments was starting the GCS Athletic Hall of Fame.”
During Weir’s tenure, the athletic department grew in leaps. When he started at GCS, the school fielded around 40 teams. When he retired, the school had 53 teams in 44 sports.
“When Paul came to Glenelg Country School, I thought it was a fantastic move for the school,” says Bryan Murphy, whose four children attended the school from 2000 to 2014. “Then, when he became the athletic director, I thought he just raised the whole athletic program a notch. He really did.”
As associate athletic director and athletic director, Weir built a robust and competitive athletic program at GCS by recruiting coaches that raised the bar. Eighteen conference championships were earned by teams under his leadership between 2010 and 2021, including titles in basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, tennis, and track.
Murphy says Weir made incremental but impactful improvements in keeping with the school’s holistic approach. “GCS wanted to improve the sports program without hurting the school’s culture academically,” he explains. “He was ideal for trying to make that adjustment.”
Says Murphy, “GCS was lucky to have him.”
Weir credits Kingdon Gould, Jr., one of the school’s founders, for his athletic vision, such as the completion of Dragon Stadium in 2014.
“Building the turf field and track was a huge step for our program,” Weir explains. “Mr. Gould valued athletics and saw the value of adding a track to the school. His vision was to continue to grow the athletic program.”
When Weir first started at GCS, all of the school’s teams competed at the C level in the state’s interscholastic sports leagues. Now, only a few teams remain at that level. Most are in the B level, and a few compete at the highest A level. Several students have been named All-Americans and played in college in baseball, basketball, and lacrosse, among other sports.
Weir’s impact extends beyond sports. Former student-athlete David Meyerson ’00 participated in Weir’s sports trainer apprenticeship in his junior year. While in college, he returned to campus as a summer camp counselor under Weir. Later, whenever he was on campus, he’d visit Weir. Meyerson says Weir has been a mentor and a friend.
“I spent more time with Paul after my days at GCS than while in school there, a testament to who he is and how much he cares,” Meyerson says. “One of these visits came when I had an untimely death in my family, and Paul took the time to listen and be there. Words can’t express how much that meant to me.”
A father of three, two of Weir’s children attended GCS. Twins Emelia ’15 and Amanda ’15 attended pre-K and kindergarten, then returned for high school. Both were student-athletes, which only deepened Weir’s perspective of student-athletic programs.
“I would always preach to our coaches and student-athletes that athletics teaches you a lot about life,” he says. “To work on a team, play with teammates of different backgrounds, and come together to work towards a common goal—those are all important life skills that athletics teaches you. As well as sportsmanship—being courteous to your opponents and learning how to strive to be the best and yet at the same time be gracious when you’re doing that—I think those are a lot of qualities that athletics provides.”
Weir is now putting his creativity and woodworking skills to use in his and his wife’s, Deborah, business painting murals and refinishing kitchen cabinetry. Deborah has been in business for over 20 years, and one of her murals is in the head of school conference room. Business is booming, thanks to the pandemic renovation trend.
“I’ve always been into woodworking and working with my hands. So it’s been nice to do something a little different,” admits Weir. “I really enjoy it. I love the appreciation you get when you create something new. It’s really gratifying.”
Always a handyman, Weir has been building his tool collection at home and learning new techniques on various construction projects. He’s had a smooth transition from patching up athletes’ injuries to spraying kitchen cabinets.
He enjoys spending more time at home, tinkering around the house when his projects are complete, and taking his son Nathan to football practice and swimming instead of working 60-hour weeks as he did as an athletic director.
“I had the whole skill set and everything right there,” reflects Weir. “The Lord works in mysterious ways. Everything fell into place.”