BURTONSVILLE, Md. (DC News Now) — Whether it’s hosting a county or state wide event or managing the many athletic teams at Paint Branch high school, athletic director Heather Podosek is on top of it all.
“She’s the face of this wing of the building,” Paint Branch cross country and track and field head coach Dessalyn Dillard said. “This half of the building, from 2:30 on, you know, it’s showtime.”
Podosek takes pride in her role at Paint Branch.
“Such a special place,” Podosek told DC News Now. “There’s a reason that kids want to come here.”
Under Podosek’s tenure as athletic director, Paint Branch’s athletic program has grown.
“I think she elevated the program in my opinion to mirror a small college, like a collegiate level program,” Dillard said. “I’m not sure how it would look without her, but I’m very happy that she was here and to receive her guidance moving forward.”
Podosek proudly pointed out to DC News Now that 32 of their school’s athletic coaches, including full-time employees and volunteers, are Paint Branch alumni.
“The majority of her career spent at Paint Branch, loves everything about Paint Branch athletics and that passion showed through everything she did here,” longtime Paint Branch football head coach Michael Nesmith said.
After 26 years coaching, teaching and leading the athletic program, Podosek is retiring.
“I really can’t picture her not being here. I know we’re doing all of this and wrapping everything up,” Nesmith said. “But it won’t be until we come back next year and she’s not around that it’ll really sink in that it’s the changing of the guard really and the end of an era.”
Originally from New Jersey, Podosek played softball and primarily basketball at George Mason University. She coached division II and III college basketball before taking over as Paint Branch girls basketball’s head coach in 1997.
In 2001, Podosek led the Panthers to a state championship victory.
“That was our first state championship, it was an unbelievable experience, we were sort of almost starstruck in that situation,” Podosek said. “We did it.”
Seven years later, Podosek led the Panthers to the top of the mountain again.
“The year before we had lost in the state semifinals. And so their mantra all year, because I always had a saying, something that was going to represent us, was ‘unfinished business,’” Podosek said. “One of the cutest things was we win the game, win the state championship and they go shake hands and they come back and there’s somebody handing out markers. And all my kids take their warmup shirts off and cross out the ‘un’ and put them back on so it just said ‘finished business.’”
Taking over as athletic director in 2010, Podosek shifted from supporting one team, to all of them.
“This is a place where they can be safe. Where they know that we care about them,” Podosek said. “I use the line all the time. If I stop getting on your case, it means I gave up and I don’t ever want to give up on a kid. The passion I took from coaching, I took to being an AD.”
While there was plenty of winning on Podosek’s watch, it’s not winning that she wants to be remembered by.
“That I cared. That I gave it everything I had. And that I’m always there for them,” Podosek said.
Upon Podosek’s retirement this summer, Dillard will take over as the school’s athletic director.