Step inside Jimmy Lynch’s office at Father Judge’s Mitchell Athletic Center and you’re bound to do a double take.
Is that the Crusaders’ new athletic director in the school-issued sky blue polo shirt, or a Judge student furiously typing away behind a MacBook at the large wooden desk?
Lynch smiles when asked about his age. After all, there aren’t too many baby-faced, 27-year-olds sitting at the head of athletic departments in one of the most competitive leagues in the state. He’s heard the whispers from doubters since he got started in this business four years ago, and he still hears them now. Unable to do anything about the year of his birth, Lynch instead lets his work speak for itself.
“I’m young, yeah, but a lot of people are young and can still do great things,” Lynch said during a Thursday chat in his new office on his fourth official day on the job. “I’ve had success the last four years, so I don’t think I have to prove myself. I’ve already done that. I’ll work my tail off to bring great things to this athletic department. Working hard and together with the coaches and the school, I’m good at that.
“But the age issue, that’s just something that’s going to be with me until I’m not a young kid anymore. The doubters will be there, but I have to look at myself and say that there’s not many people doing this at my age who already have four years experience.”
Lynch spent the first years of his life growing up on St. Vincent Street in Mayfair. He would have gone to Judge like his father, Bob (Class of 1974), uncles and cousins, but his parents moved the family to Richboro, Bucks County, when he was a boy. Lynch graduated from Council Rock High School South in 2004, having played varsity basketball and volleyball.
He received an undergraduate degree in sociology from Saint Joseph’s University in 2008, playing volleyball and lacrosse at the club level. However, it was during this time that Lynch realized his future may be in the educational side of athletics, as he worked various jobs within the school’s athletic, recreation and sports information departments.
Lynch went on to earn a master of sport management degree from Neumann University in 2009, and it was a summer internship in Boston as part of his graduate program that led him down his current career path. After networking and acquiring some contacts throughout the city, Lynch landed the athletic director’s job at Boston’s Cathedral High School at just 23 years of age. Several of the inner-city’s Catholic school’s athletic programs improved right away once Lynch took over; the football team went from 3-8 at the time of his appointment to appearing in back-to-back state championships.
Returning to Philadelphia, Lynch wants to wrestle away some of the many championships that have been dished out in recent years to powerhouse Catholic League competitors such as La Salle and St. Joseph’s Prep, but his own recipe for success, the one that worked for him in Boston, is much broader and simpler than wins and losses.
“Ultimately, when you’re an athletic director at any level, you need to realize you’re representing an educational institution,” he said. “Students need to be students, and they’re called student-athletes for a reason. Athletics are a privilege, an extension of the classroom. We want to get them to graduate, go get a four-year degree and become productive members of society. That’s how we succeed as a school and a community.”
Lynch’s philosophies should mesh well at a school like Judge. He understands how well-respected the tradition and history are within the Judge community. Lynch isn’t interested in molding physical, athletic specimens that will peak in high school, nor is he attempting to reinvent the wheel; rather, he just wants student-athletes to be afforded the same opportunities he was at such a young age.
“Listen, these kids are here to earn an education,” he said. “If you’re an awesome player, that’s great, but I’ve been involved in urban sports for four years, and I’ve seen athletes treat education like it doesn’t matter. Then comes the ‘Ah-ha!’ moment where you’re broke, with no no education, not doing anything.”
Lynch referred to his sudden homecoming as a “dream come true.” After finding immediate success in Boston, he was ready to come back to Philadelphia and build a professional network here. In Judge, he inherits a student body roughly three times the size of Cathedral’s, and one of the first things he noticed when stepping on campus is how much the facilities have improved at Judge in recent years. Not only do the Crusaders boast their brand new sports complex across the street from the school, but they also have the Mitchell Center, which features a state-of-the-art weight room that looks like it was pulled from a brochure from a Division-I college.
“The thing I’ve noticed the most so far is that everyone in this community, be it alumni or the board or the coaches, everyone just wants Judge to succeed,” Lynch said. “For me, it’s about building from within as a whole as opposed to just focusing on one team. Anything I can do to help these kids get to college, I’m there. I want kids to be excited about coming to school here.”
Above all, Lynch is just excited about the opportunity Judge has presented him. Like Cathedral, those in charge looked beyond his youthful appearance and focused instead on what he’s accomplished. He knows he’s stepped into an enviable position, and plans to be here “for the long haul.”
He’s got top-notch facilities, capable coaches and eager student-athletes who want to make Father Judge the best school possible, across the board.
“Obviously nobody has higher expectations for this than I do,” he concluded. “I want this place to be the model for athletics not only in Philadelphia, but nationwide. We have so many opportunities to do great things here.
“In an age where sports could potentially be on the chopping block at a lot of schools in our area, it’s just great to know Judge is committed to athletics. We want to keep athletics here in the direction they’re going. All I want to do is bring some new creativity and energy. That’s the one flip side about me being young: I’ve got a ton of energy.” ••