New Piedmont athletic director brings wide-ranging experience to new job

Julie Reichle

Tyler Small, with his family seated behind him, makes remarks to the school board after his appointment in May.

Tyler Small and his family were trying to find Witter Field for a soccer game about six years ago. It was their first time in town.

“Piedmont is such a special place and we kind of stumbled upon it,” Small said. “’What is this place? We’re gonna move here if we can.’”

The Smalls were living in Brentwood at the time. Jessica worked at Kaiser in Oakland. Tyler was principal at the Five Keys school at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

“We were already kind of growing tired of the two hour commute to Oakland,” Tyler Small said. “We were driving through Piedmont. I felt we were in a movie. My wife and I jokingly said if there’s ever an opportunity to move here, we are moving. In 2020, we hit that breaking point and moved.”

The Smalls and their three daughters and one son entered the Piedmont Unified School District. Small would take his daughters to girls basketball games and other events. He eventually joined Spectrum Schools as a regional vice president. But he was hoping to return to school sports, either as a coach or an administrator.

“Over the last year or so, my wife and I talked a lot about how I missed coaching,” Small said. “I started as a teacher and coach and obviously you’re super-close to your students and athletes and now I was several steps removed. I really missed building those relationships.

This year, an opportunity came up. Piedmont High School athletic director Bradley Smet announced he was resigning after four years. Small then was named the new athletic director. He starts on July 1.

“I saw this position come available and I thought it would bring my two passions together,” Small said. “Leadership and then sports. To me this is a no-brainer. I always wanted to work in a district where my kids go to school.”

Small’s daughters are headed into eighth, fifth and third grades and his son is a rising first grader. All four compete in sports. Small said he didn’t apply for any other positions — just the one in Piedmont.

Small comes to the position at an interesting point. Smet took over during the pandemic and had to negotiate the complex scheduling and administrative issues brought on by COVID-19. The District then undertook a Title IX audit that has several outstanding issues remaining in terms of how female athletes are treated compared to males. Piedmont High also added flag football and beach volleyball as girls sports in the past two school years. At the same time, PUSD has also seen declining enrollment in recent years which potentially could affect how many sports it can offer in the future.

Small, 40, is ready for the challenge. “I have been behind the scenes meeting people,” he said. “Bradley was super-generous with his time. I have my own thoughts through my own lens. First, the Title IX work that has been done is just phenomenal. Continuing that is a priority. There are some opportunities for coaches and making sure we have the same facilities and access to facilities and off season workouts [for boys and girls]. P.A. [public address] systems not being there or being updated at Binks [gymnasium]. These are some things that come to mind.”

Small said a key for him will be communication. “I really in my heart believe that good leadership is good leadership regardless of the organization,” he said. “That’s the attitude I take to it. The next couple of weeks, just listening.
What are the needs, what are the wants. Then come up with a game plan.”

Building the programs in the community is also important. “There’s a game,” Small said. “But also there’s an event around that game that brings the community together. It’s something they want to be a part of. Kids in the stands thinking, ‘I cannot wait until I’m a Highlander.’”

“My kids go to a lot of the events simply because my wife and I love sports. But talking to their friends, most of them didn’t know that we had one of the best basketball players in the country — Natalia Martinez — playing in our backyard this year. That is a super-great role model. There should be a notion that ‘I can’t wait til I’m in her shoes.’”

Small was born in Indiana and eventually attended the University of Indiana-Indianapolis. He earned a master’s degree at Ball State. He started his career as a teacher and coach in Indiana, progressing to teaching special education and then moving into school administration. His wife Jessica was offered a job in the Bay Area and the family moved west in 2017. Small worked as the principal at Santa Rita Jail, then as an administrator at Tilden Preparatory School in Walnut Creek. The past three years, he has been with Spectrum, which focuses on special education.

Small said his resume has brought him in contact with kids and adults from all kinds of backgrounds. “I feel very fortunate that I’ve worked in many environments,” he said. “Where I first started teaching and coaching, [it was] maybe not as affluent as Piedmont but very close. As a high school principal I was at a high school that had been taken over by the state of Indiana. We were 100 percent free lunch. I think it was 95 percent of our students were first time high school graduates.”

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