Thomas Sims, Kelly Van Winden, Annie Petrie

Incoming Napa High School athletic director Thomas Sims, right, poses with interim athletic director Kelly Van Winden, left, and Napa High Principal Annie Petrie after a meeting of the North Coast Section board of managers at Mira Vista Golf and Country Club in El Cerrito on Tuesday.

Marty James, Register

Thomas Sims, a 2004 Napa High School graduate who was the Player of the Year on All-Napa County and All-Monticello Empire League football teams as a running back-middle linebacker, will take over as the Indians’ Athletic Director later this year, NHS Principal Annie Petrie said.

Sims will replace Kelly Van Winden, Napa’s interim AD, following the 2016-17 school year. Van Winden is also the head volleyball coach.

“Thomas is excited to give back to his alma mater and he is passionate about leading Napa High athletics,” said Petrie. “He has grown a successful strength and conditioning program for many of our athletic teams and he understands the value of athletics for students. His coaching experience will serve us well as he steps into his new position.”

Sims spent one year as a teacher-coach at American Canyon High, then transferred to Napa for the 2014-15 school year. He teaches English and is a full-time staff member. Sims has also been on the varsity football coaching staff, working as linebackers coach, assistant offensive line coach, and the Indians’ strength and conditioning coach.

“I’m excited to begin my role as Napa High’s Athletic Director,” said Sims, 31. “The coaches that I had at Napa High played a large role in molding me into the man I am today. I look forward to helping aid the coaches at Napa High in their continued success as well as being proactive in the hiring of great coaches.”

Sims plans to work on expanding the strength and conditioning program at Napa, “to help all of our teams and athletes reach their full athletic potential. It is our goal for student-athletes at Napa High School to not only improve in their chosen sport, but to develop the knowledge in terms of nutrition and exercise that will allow them to continue living a healthy lifestyle once they leave the doors of Napa High School.”

Sims is already transitioning into his new position and addressed the CIF North Coast Section Board of Managers at Tuesday’s meeting at Mira Vista Golf and Country Club in El Cerrito.

Napa, Vintage and American Canyon high schools were each accepted into the North Coast Section Tuesday. Each school received unanimous approval during a vote of the board of the managers, which consists of school district superintendents, league commissioners and presidents, principals and athletic directors. The move takes effect for the 2018-19 school year and returns Napa and Vintage to the North Coast Section, where they were members through the 1975-76 school year.

Petrie said her expectation of the newly appointed AD will be to have a “laser focus” on building healthy and honest relationships between and among students, staff, coaches, and the community at large.

“In addition to the technical side of the job, the role of the AD will be evolving as we embrace a culture of character first, academics second, and excellence in all that we strive to do,” said Petrie.

“Relationships will be the key. This will mean that the AD will take on a more prominent position in our leadership structure, becoming a part of the front office team that oversees and supports the whole school. The intention is to create more coherence across all of our programs.”

Sims will move into the AD job this summer.

“Thomas and I are working together on gearing up for our fall sports teams,” said Van Winden.

Van Winden added: “The spring coaches have been unbelievable – a lot of new coaches that are just thrilled to be doing what they’re doing. Our participation rate is up in every sport. We’re doing some really good things.”

Van Winden said she has enjoyed the opportunity to work as interim AD. She was at Tuesday’s meeting with Petrie and Sims.

“It’s been an honor to be able to help Napa High School move forward,” said Van Winden, who was a two-time All-American in volleyball at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and a former head coach at Sonoma State and Napa Valley College. “I am proud of our spring sport athletes and coaching staff. What a pleasure it has been to work with such amazing people from the coaching staff, support staff, and student-athletes.”

Sims attended the United States Military Academy Preparatory School in New Jersey for one year. He played football there.

He transferred to Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. An injury ended his football career. He graduated in 2008 from Willamette with a degree in English.

Sims was medically discharged from officer candidate school with the U.S. Marine Corps in 2010 when he suffered a knee injury during training.

He returned to college and got his master’s in education with an emphasis in secondary English from DePaul University in Chicago.

For two years, he coached football at Lane High in Chicago. He was the team’s defensive coordinator and middle linebackers coach. He also ran the school’s strength and conditioning program.

Sims was on the coaching staff at American Canyon in 2013, when the Wolves (10-2 overall) won the Solano County Athletic Conference title and got to the second round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. He coached middle linebackers, assisted with the offensive line, and ran the strength and conditioning program.

He will be working as an athletic director for the first time.

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Executive Sports Editor Marty James has been with the Napa Valley Register since 1979. He is a member of the Associated Press Sports Editors, California Prep Sportswriters Association, and the California Golf Writers Association. He was inducted into the