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Decades of impact at ODA

Longtime administrator/teacher Sean Ball is named the Out-of-Door Academy's new head of upper school in Lakewood Ranch.

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Sarasota’s Sean Ball remembered when he was interviewing to be a math teacher at The Out-of-Door Academy 28 years ago.

Ball told the head of school at the time, Martha Duffy, that he had previously taught English and also that he knew Latin.

“All of a sudden I was teaching history, Latin and English,” Ball said. “I actually never have taught math.”

With nearly three decades of being a teacher, a coach and an administrator at The Out-of-Door Academy, Ball will use his experience to lead ODA’s Upper School into the future as its new head. 

“Sean Ball’s 28-year legacy of service to ODA and our students is nothing short of outstanding,” said David Mahler, ODA’s head of school. “He is a true triple threat as a teacher, coach and adviser.”

Ball has previously served as the assistant head of Middle and Upper school.

Ball’s passion for education stemmed from his father, Russell, who was a teacher and administrator as well.

“I saw the impact he made on people’s lives, and I thought that was important,” Ball said. “I never wanted to sit in a cubicle, and I wanted to have an impact on students’ lives.”

Ball said the dedication of ODA’s staff — especially at a time when educators have been forced to change their way of teaching because of a global pandemic — fuels him to improve the school.

“Every day is new,” Ball said. “The beauty of education is there could be new challenges. There could be new successes.”

As the head of Upper School, Ball wants to continue to push the school’s academic programming forward with an emphasis on the four C’s: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.

“If you do well on those four, it’s setting you up for life,” Ball said.

Every morning, Sean Ball, the head of upper school, chats with students like Joseph Clarke as they start the school day. Courtesy photo.
Every morning, Sean Ball, the head of upper school, chats with students like Joseph Clarke as they start the school day. Courtesy photo.

Throughout his years at ODA, Ball has coached numerous sports at the Middle and Upper School levels including lacrosse, football, soccer, basketball, tennis and golf.

“There’s teaching that takes place in the classroom, but there’s a tremendous amount of teaching that takes place on the athletic fields,” he said. “You get to see the students in a different way, and you get to interact with them in a different light. Education, in a sense, is about relationships, and that’s a different relationship when you’re coaching a student-athlete versus teaching students in the classroom.”

Adam Stump, a junior, met Ball when he was in seventh grade, and Ball was the assistant head of middle school.

“I feel like we clicked right away,” said Stump, who is playing lacrosse, which Ball coaches. “We’re pretty similar. We’re both [University of Florida] gator fans. We’ve been able to develop our relationships more over the years.”

Ball said he has seen students grow from when they attended the school as preschoolers to when they graduated. 

Every morning, Ball stands in the library greeting students as they walk through the door.

“The little moments sometimes are great moments, and I think that’s what education is about,” Ball said. “It could be a lesson that can have a lasting impact. That’s the beauty of what we do. I’m a huge believer in the quality of life, and I like that I found it here.”


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