Roots Run Deep

By Andrea Hampe

On the surface, it’s easy to point out the characteristics of an oak tree. It is well-known for its large, strong branches and distinctively lobed leaves. It can grow up to 100 feet tall, typically displaying a wide-spreading crown and thick, gnarled branches. The bark is rugged and deeply furrowed, providing protection to the tree’s inner layers. Highly prized for its strength and durability, the oak tree is known for its longevity. And while the naked eye can clearly see these characteristics when gazing at its beauty, it’s the roots underground that tell the real story of how it came to be.
 
Just as the roots of an oak tree play a crucial role in its overall health and stability, the leadership of Frisco Independent School District (FISD) is vital to the district’s structural support. And when naming Jerry Littlejohn as FISD’s new Athletic Director, the strong roots already ran deep.

For a little more than three decades, Littlejohn has served FISD in various capacities. He joined in 1992 as a teacher and coach, serving on David Kuykendall’s football coaching staff at Frisco High when it was the district’s only high school. His roles during a 31-year career in FISD include math and history teacher and multiple coaching assignments, including a head golf coach position at Frisco High and head baseball coach at Centennial High. Littlejohn was also the physical education department chair at Frisco High and associate principal at Wakeland High.
 
 Littlejohn became Assistant Athletic Director in 2010 when Heritage and Lone Star played their first varsity season as FISD expanded to six high schools. The district’s enrollment has nearly doubled since then, and during the 2023-2024 school year, FISD will have 12 high schools and more than 12,000 student-athletes participating at the middle school and high school levels.
I was mentored to position myself educationally to take advantage of opportunities professionally when they are available,” said Littlejohn. “David Kuykendall [former athletic director], Rick Burnett [former Frisco HS principal], Mike Farish [former Wakeland HS principal], and Randy Spain [former Centennial HS principal] were very impactful in my development as a teacher, coach, and leader. These men demonstrated daily what effective leadership looks like.”
 
 Last year was really like no other when it comes to overall athletic success for FISD programs, with a record 74 playoff teams, plus state champions in boys’ soccer and girls’ basketball, seven state runner-up teams, and dozens of individual state medalists in sports such as golf, tennis, swimming and diving, and track and field. “Last year had unprecedented success, but I would say I’m most proud of the way our student-athletes compete with class and sportsmanship while representing our community,” said Littlejohn.
Littlejohn’s approach to his profession is to compete. While this may sound like he means competing in sports, he’s referring to a more internal competition. “Myself and our tremendous athletic staff compete daily to do everything we can to support our coaches in leading our athletic program,” said Littlejohn. “We work together to maintain the highest level of consistency from one campus to another across the district. This can be a challenge with 12 high school campuses and 18 middle school campuses; however, we consistently collaborate in making decisions or addressing concerns that inevitably could affect all our programs.”

 His future goals are simple. “In the short term…the next few years…I want to be able to provide our coaches with the resources and support they need to help our student-athletes become leaders when they leave Frisco ISD,” said Littlejohn. “My advice to anyone in this profession would be to work hard to serve others along the way.”
Further demonstrating his strong connection to the success and growth of FISD, Littlejohn speaks of his wife, Karen. “Karen is also a Frisco ISD employee,” he said. “This is her 27th year in serving the FISD community. For the past 12 years, she has been on staff at Anderson Elementary as their librarian.”
 
Outside of Frisco ISD, Littlejohn’s interests include a love of golf and traveling with his wife to the beach and mountains whenever they have the chance.
 
 On the surface, the big, sturdy, oak tree we know as FISD is quite impressive to look at; however, it’s even more impressive to see and understand the deep roots that have formed throughout the years – growing, protecting, and strengthening its structure. Team members like Jerry Littlejohn are a vital component of this complex and intricate root system, creating support and stability for generations to come.
Andrea Hampe is a content writer, mom of three boys, and a youth sports fanatic.
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