His career path was never in question. From the time he was a young boy, he loved sports. By high school, he knew, somehow, in some way, he wanted to have them the focal point of his vocational pursuits.

Now, how Mr. John Welch was going to make that desire a reality … that was open for debate.

An athlete good enough to be recruited to play football, Welch originally wanted to get into sports medicine. But managing that educational workload as a student-athlete, well, he determined that was more than he was willing to take on.

That realistic decision has turned out to be quite beneficial to Welch, who not only went on to compete at the Division II level, but also earn three degrees, including an MSS in Sports Management with honors from the United States Sports Academy in 2011, en route to securing that career in sports.

Since 2001, he has been a fixture in the athletic department at Appalachian State University, and just recently he was promoted to Assistant Athletics Director for Internal Operations and Event Management. Basically, that means he oversees everything involved with sporting events at the Boone, N.C., school from an operational, personnel, management, scheduling, communications and compliance standpoint.

As if that weren’t enough to fill his plate, Welch also has served as an elected official for Watauga (N.C.) County since 2010, first as a member of its school board and now as it commissioner.

“I have found that my sports and political endeavors have been a good match,” he said. “Luckily, I have had the support from the (Appalachian State) Athletics Department and University administrations to pursue both. For me, running for local office served many purposes. It gave me the opportunity to serve my hometown (he is native of Boone) and community and it provided an opportunity for professional development that I have transitioned to my sports career.

“The development of large budgets, strategic planning and constituent services required in the local government mirrors those in sports. Mingling the two can be a good match if you try to keep everything in perspective and serve with honesty and integrity. It definitely has made me more aware of local, state and national issues that impact intercollegiate athletics and the overall sports industry.”

Welch excelled at the Academy, thanks to his maturity level and grasp of what he wanted in life: career, family and education, and how the all can factor into the same equation.

“It was a perfect fit for me and my family,” Welch said of the Academy’s program. “I wanted to take my career to another level and found it to be a rigorous, yet convenient, option. At the time, my wife and I were working full-time with a young daughter and, eventually, I was running for a seat on the local board of education. The online format, instructors and depth of coursework really made my experience worthwhile.

“My experience (there) has really helped me personally and professionally. I know there are many people who are in the same situation I found myself in as I started my coursework and I highly recommend them exploring opportunities at (the Academy).”

Inspired by his success, Welch went ever further to gain expertise in hopes to advance his career path.

“Being an adult learner, my priorities were different and having a family forces you to use time more wisely,” he said. “My goal was to graduate with honors and I was proud when I did. The depth and rigor prepared me to successfully complete my Ed.S. (in Higher Education Leadership) last spring.”

The doctorate was earned at Appalachian State. His bachelor’s in Sports Management was achieved at Wingate University. All his time and effort has paid off in not only a career, but also some perks.

Working at Appalachian State allowed him to reconnect with the Moore family, as Ms. Margaret Moore was his fifth-grade teacher and very influential on his youth, and her husband just happened to be Mr. Jerry Moore, who became the head football coach of the Mountaineers and led them to back-to-back-to-back FCS national championships and a thrilling upset of Michigan in 2007 that turned out to be the Academy’s College Football Game of the Year … and Welch was part of all that as a member of the operational staff.

“All of these experiences have given me a very unique perspective on the current events and future of intercollegiate athletics,” he said.

The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special-mission sports university created to serve the nation and world in instruction, research and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, visit www.ussa.edu.