TAMPA - Mike Guastella sees potential at Citrus Park Christian. The Eagles' first-year athletic director said the possibilities for the budding private school's programs were apparent when he joined the staff in mid-June. "We've already got an incredibly well established academic school here. We need to be the same way in athletics, and that's exactly what we're going to do," Guastella said. "The facilities are incredible, and the people here are great too. They have a great vision, but they needed a plan, and that's what we're putting together now." Guastella started his coaching career at Haines City Ridge Community in 2005, where he served as a football assistant and as the school's assistant athletic director.
He went on to lead the boys basketball programs at Lakeland Victory Christian and Ormond Beach Calvary Christian from 2008 to 2011, where his teams won three district titles in as many years and posted a combined 68-18 record. "It's been a personal goal of mine to be an athletic director," Guastella said. "I believe if you have a well-run athletic department, then you can offer so much to kids with teamwork and the chance to play in college." Guastella said the plan is to start small. "You have to be successful at a few things before you can build to being successful at a lot of sports," Guastella said. "Being successful in a few things will help lead us in the direction of being successful in other areas." Guastella said the school will offer football, boys and girls basketball, volleyball, girls tennis and cheerleading this fall and there are plans to add boys and girls weightlifting and boys tennis for the 2014-15 school year. The football program will also join Citrus Park's other teams as part of the Florida High School Athletic Association this year after spending the past few seasons playing in a six- and seven-man league. Guastella said adding traditional football will help bring attention to Citrus Park. "Across the county, football rules the athletic landscape," Guastella said. "A lot of people pay attention to it, and as an athletic director you want to find ways to get your school out there. The best way to do it is be successful at football. If you're putting a good product on the field and sending kids to college, then the school and programs will be associated with success no matter what else you have going on." Guastella said football will compete as an independent team for at least two seasons before joining a district. "My goal is to hire good coaches who can also help bring the community together," Guastella said. "The right coaches will attract the right kind of people we want around these programs." Tribune correspondent Kyle LoJacono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @Kyle_LoJacono.