Blair Suek enjoying first year as the top Tide
The first thing one notices about new Gig Harbor High School athletic director Blair Suek is her beaming smile and enthusiastic attitude. As you get to know her more, her intellect and astute athletic insights become apparent.
Combine those qualities with her experience as a college athlete, high school coach and athletic coordinator and it becomes clear that Gig Harbor has found a well-rounded professional to lead the Tides into the future.
Suek welcomed me into her newly decorated office recently. She gave an open and honest look into her past accomplishments, present philosophies and a glimpse into her optimistic goals.
Suek, 31, has always been involved in sports. She grew up in the close-knit community of Puyallup and remembers the support of her parents, Jim and Antonette, from a very early age. She began dance classes at 3 years old and recalls playing every sport she could find in elementary school.
Suek fell in love with volleyball because of the team concept and the relationships among players. She started playing club volleyball at 14, traveling the country and learning what it took to become a high level athlete. Her Puyallup High School team was very successful and made the state tournament her senior year. She discovered that being a coach could allow her to positively effect the lives of young people.
She played volleyball at Pacific Lutheran University, becoming an NCAA Division III All-American and the Libero of the Year in her league.
A classic overachiever on the court and in the classroom, she worked in the PLU athletic office and loved it. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and later earned a master’s degree in secondary education.
“I had an amazing time playing volleyball at PLU and made great friends there,” she said. “I realized I wasn’t going pro in volleyball, nobody ever really does. But I knew I wanted to go pro in athletics.”
It was at PLU that she met her future husband TJ Suek, a linebacker on the Lutes football team. The two married a few years after graduation. TJ is a teacher and a soccer coach at White River High School. The couple welcomed their energetic son Luca in 2020.
After college she worked as an English teacher and volleyball coach at Steilacoom High School. She coached the Sentinels for eight years, taking her team to state last season. Four years ago, seeking a chance to impact more kids lives, she took an athletic coordinator position at the school. That move gave her experience in handling an athletic department.
When the AD position opened up at Gig Harbor, with an administration certificate from Eastern Washington University completed, she was ready to apply.
She previously coached a Gig Harbor club volleyball team and enjoyed the athletes, parents and community.
“Those were my favorite club teams to coach and Gig Harbor has such a good reputation. Everyone was so nice,” she said.
Coaching background prepared Suek to be AD
Suek said her favorite thing about being a high school coach was “building a relationship with the kids and seeing them progress.”
Seeing a group improve as a team is also up there, she said. “And then the competitive environment that surrounds high school athletics is great, like when a team succeeds in a big event and everyone is celebrating, is so fun.”
Her coaching experience prepared her well for stepping into the administrator’s role of AD.
“I think if you’ve sat in that coach’s chair prior to becoming an athletic director, it gives you insight as to how you can help,” Suek said. “That’s my job, to help support kids and coaches.”
Former Gig Harbor AD Bob Werner, who stepped down at the end of the 2021-22 school year, felt that letting coaches coach is one of the most important aspects of the job. Suek has a similar philosophy.
“We hired them and we trust them because they have knowledge that they can pass on to kids,” she said. “I’m here to support that.”
Current projects, future opportunities
It’s clear that traits acquired from her volleyball past have crossed over into her AD role. She played the libero position at PLU — they are specialists and are usually competitive team leaders. They do a little bit of everything on the court and provide the glue that helps bind a team together. Much like a successful athletic director.
The ambitious Suek has made an impact already as she has taken on the task of improving the Tides athletics website for a more robust online presence. She is overseeing a soon-to-be-completed lighting overhaul in the gymnasiums.
She hints at ideas about how to better honor past conference and state championship winners in the gym. Suek seems to understand the future facility needs at Gig Harbor High.
Suek has been impressed with the quality of the coaching and athletes across all sports at Gig Harbor. In order to familiarize herself, she forwarded a recent survey to all coaches asking about their successes.
“I was amazed at their answers,” she said. “We have coaches with multiple state championships, backgrounds in pro sports or the Olympic trials and even past college All-Americans on staff. They are all so humble you wouldn’t know it unless you asked, but that experience really helps a young athlete to achieve a higher level.”
Suek became Gig Harbor’s athletic director during this year’s 50th anniversary celebration of Title IX, which aims to equalize athletic opportunity between women and men.
“We are getting there with equal pay and opportunities but I think it’s something we need to continue to strive for,” Suek said. “It’s really about the equal representation of all athletes and all sports both male and female, that is my main goal.”
Suek feels another aspect of a successful athletic director is advocating on behalf of athletes for possible college scholarships. She’s had experience, helping student athletes play college ball from Steilacoom High. “If it’s Division I, II or III, NAIA or community college it doesn’t matter, it’s about getting kids to college.”
She has assisted many by explaining requirements, establishing coaching contacts and welcomes the opportunity to help her student-athletes reach for their collegiate goals.
Gig Harbor has had great success in their athletic department over the years. The Tides have won 15 state titles in the last 11 years and have been the victors of the SSC All Sports Championship six years in a row.
With that prior success in mind, finding the right athletic director to best represent Gig Harbor’s school, coaches, athletes and a sports-minded community was paramount. After spending just an hour of a busy morning with the accomplished Blair Suek, it became apparent that the athletic department is in capable hands and the future of Gig Harbor athletics is bright.