Bridgens returns to SLSD as new AD

Garrett Bridgens has been named the school district’s new athletic director.

Cottage Grove High School (CGHS) has announced its new athletic director as former South Lane School District educator Garrett Bridgens. 

“The opportunity to apply for the position came about and I thought it was an opportunity to come back and serve my community, a place where I grew up and a community that has really done a lot for me and my family,” said Bridgens. “So I saw it as an opportunity to come back and work in the place that I live in.”

Bridgens, a former Cottage Grove Lion, brings a tremendous amount of coaching experience, knowledge, and community connections to this new role. He got involved in coaching in Cottage Grove, right out of high school, starting with coaching middle school basketball then moving to various positions in high school basketball, football, youth sports, and 17 years on the track and field coaching staff.

The longevity of coaching and community involvement lays a strong foundation for Bridgens’ fresh outlook on athletic programming and shows the commitment to the students and their families.

Bridgens understands the importance of success in the classroom and has experience in both teaching and administration roles.

Previously, Bridgens taught at CGHS from 2007-2019 and in 2014, transitioned half of his time as the district communications coordinator and held that role for five years. Most recently serving as a school administrator for the past two years in the 4J school district. 

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to come back and work here. One thing I am most excited about is the long history I have with Cottage Grove,” he said. “I’ve made so many connections, lifelong connections, with people in this community, the staff at Cottage Grove High School; so I’m excited about coming back and working with the community and staff at CGHS to do some great work and serve our students.” 

Being a part of the Cottage Grove athletic program as a coach for a long time, Bridgens was able to see actions and decisions by previous athletic directors that were both successful and unsuccessful that are serving as guidance for what he could do to lead a better student-athlete experience in Cottage Grove.

“Before I left Cottage Grove, I was really fortunate to be part of a change we had in 2011, under the leadership of Dave Presley, as we revamped the athletic program,” explained Bridgens. “I want to look at things we had done in the past like our athlete’s council, which was a group of athletes that helped lead our athletics department and get back to that.

“I want to make sure that every student at Cottage Grove High School and in South Lane School District has the opportunity to participate. We want to remove those barriers for people. Whether its participation fees or how easy it is for kids to sign up to play sports, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. It’s not going to be me doing it, but us doing it together working with coaches, with parents, student-athletes, with staff, and our community, to really evaluate what our strengths are as an athletic department and where our gaps might be.”

Coming out of a year with the pandemic it was a roller coaster season for high school athletics across all of Oregon. As the state transitions from heavy restrictions and sports have the opportunity to return to normal, Bridgens is eager to have a balance of safety, participation, and fun for the returning students. 

“Goal number one for this next school year is the health and safety of our students and how we will adjust to a post-pandemic world by having our students feel like it’s safe and how we can get those participation levels back up,” he said. “We want to get back to our kids having fun and our coaches being able to coach. We want to get to the point where we’re not worrying about all the health and safety protocols. That’s what school is about, not just athletics, but our kids having a good experience at school, and I hope I can help with that as we follow the guidance of the school district and the state as we move forward.”

The future of Cottage Grove athletics is bright as Bridgens is experienced and passionate about the holistic student-athlete experience at all levels.

Now, with fall sports right around the corner, Bridgens steps into his new role with optimism and excitement to continue strong partnerships with teachers and coaches to positively impact students in the community.

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