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Stilianou heads Clay sports

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 7/13/23

GREEN COVE SPRINGS - John “Jay” Stilianou is best known for his fiery sideline presence in the midst of a decade of state championship football runs as Clay High’s defensive guru, then a string …

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Stilianou heads Clay sports


GREEN COVE SPRINGS - John “Jay” Stilianou is best known for his fiery sideline presence in the midst of a decade of state championship football runs as Clay High’s defensive guru, then a string of Final Four runs as the equally fiery flag football coach. Stilianou also had a brief stint at girls basketball coach and achieved a district title in that sport plus a state champion girls and boys weightlifter teamed with a handful of state qualifiers and a handful of track medalists on his resume.

Now, Stilianou steps away from his desk as an assistant principal at Keystone Heights High School to take over the reigns as the Clay County School District Athletic Director. Stilianou replaces departed John Sgromolo, who initiated the job five years ago, and has recently taken the athletic director’s job at St. Johns Country Day School.

“I would say it was a surprise the job came open, because I don’t feel anyone saw John leaving the job,” said Stilianou, married with two daughters; wife Amanda, Clay Virtual Academy Principal; Makayla, 26, and Alexis, 22. “That said, I enjoyed my role as assistant principal at Keystone, but I believe this is a great opportunity to help and support Clay County Athletic Directors and the numerous coaches and athletes. Besides my family, the things I’m passionate about the most would be students and sports - this job allows me to be around both.”

Sgromolo takes over after the departure of Traci Livingston, who ran the Spartans powerful sports programs for 13 years.

“I had a wonderful 28 years at St. Johns Country Day School where I served as athletic director the past 13 years,” said Livingston. “I have been blessed to have watched some of the best athletes in the state and nation. My experiences have given me a special bond that will always bee very near and dar to my heart.”

With his vast 16 year history at Clay High School, Stilianou jumped ship in 2020 and took over the Middleburg High athletic department and instilled the same winning ways on the Bronco sidelines as a “psuedo” football coach on the sidelines and the head coach for the flag football team that became an area powerhouse under Stilianou’s tutelage. Under Stilianou’s directorship, Middleburg won its first ever team state title with the girls softball team, turned a football team around to a 5-5 team record under first year head coach Ryan Wolfe and even had a first-ever wrestling state champion in Cheyenne Cruce on the girls wrestling team.

“My experiences at Clay High and Middleburg have played a significant role in shaping my mindset regarding athletics, which I will certainly use in my new role,” said Stilianou. “I’ve been so fortunate and blessed to have principals that allowed me to be the true leader of the athletic programs at both Clay High and Middleburg.”

One key to Stilianou’s immense enthusiasm for sports in Clay County has been his ability to coach and coach alongside his very successful daughters; Makayla and Alexis, both multisport athletes at Clay High.

“Certainly, having the opportunity to coach both of my daughters and later coach alongside Alexis has provided me with a special insight into the needs of athletes at the high school level,” said Stilianou. “When making decisions, I always consider what I would want for my own daughters. As an athletic director, my focus is on creating a positive culture and student experience that athletes can look back on with great memories.”

As a team builder on and off the field at both Clay and Middleburg as well as Keystone Heights, Stilianou liked the opportunity to take Clay County, already burgeoning with handfuls of state champions in multiple sports, to a next level.

“Clay County is a special place and the schools are great places to send your kids and certainly a great county for athletics,” said Stilianou. “Our county already has a strong foundation in athletics and has seen recent successes with state championships and Final Four appearances in various sports, the goal is to continuously improve and strive for excellence in all facets of the athletic programs.”