While coaches called out plays from the sidelines during a blustery evening of Friday night Vineyard football last fall, athletic director Mark McCarthy was glued to his phone, facing a logistical nightmare. Ferries were canceled for the rest of the night due to high winds, potentially stranding the opposing football team, Cape Cod Tech, on the Island.

Meanwhile, across the Sound, the Vineyard track and field team was returning from an off-Island meet with no ferry available to bring them home.

But stranded students was not an option for Mr. McCarthy. He called the Steamship Authority and pleaded his case.

“There are some things you can’t control...but I don’t like to say no, we can’t do this. I want to try to figure out a way that we can do it,” he said as he recounted the experience in his office earlier this week.

As soon as the game ended, he rushed the players and referees to the Vineyard Haven terminal, still not sure if they would get home. He pulled up to the boat to find the lights on and the terminal manager waiting for them.

“He told me, ‘We’re running this boat to get the football team off the Island. The only reason we’re running it is because you told us we have to do it,’” he said.

Mr. McCarthy’s job still wasn’t done. After confirming that the Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard steamship route was closed for the night, he called the Patriot Boat in Falmouth and scheduled a shuttle for the track team. A few hours later, every player had made it home and Mr. McCarthy could call it a night.

Juggling up to 16 team schedules, boat ticket confirmations and shifting weather forecasts are all part of the daily routine for 57-year-old Mr. McCarthy, who’s been orchestrating the logistics for the Vineyard sports program for nine years. In his small office at the high school, a pile of highlighted schedules and travel itineraries sits next to his computer showing a color-coded calendar spreadsheet with nearly every day filled in. Only the upcoming week is set, Mr. McCarthy explained, because of all the variables he can’t predict.

“Once you print a schedule it’s obsolete almost the minute you print it, especially in this environment, because of all the changes that come in,” he said.

With a canteen of Diet Coke in hand, Mr. McCarthy sets to work each Monday morning fiddling with the dates, times and locations of games, all of which must fit into a litany of conditions. For example, boys and girls soccer games can’t overlap or be played at the same time as a football game because they share a field. Several spring sports don’t have set end times, so they can’t start too late in the evening or risk missing the boat. The list goes on.

“It’s a struggle. I’m a one-man band,” said Mr. McCarthy. “You never know what’s coming, but you have to find a way to make it work. That’s what this job is: problem-solving and planning.”

For most of his career, Mr. McCarthy’s focus was solving problems of a different kind as a first responder for injuries on the field in his role as an athletic trainer. The move made him the rebel in his family of educators, he said, which includes his father Daniel McCarthy, the namesake of the Vineyard football field. Mr. McCarthy, like his four siblings, played three sports at MVRHS: football, tennis and basketball, even playing in a few championship games at the old Boston Garden. While his siblings left athletics to pursue careers in education after high school, Mr. McCarthy said he was just getting started.

“When I left here as a senior, I knew I wanted to be involved in sports,” he said. “That’s why I went into athletic training, so I could be on the sideline and in athletics, but in a different role.”

Mr. McCarthy enrolled in the sports medicine program at Westfield State University and walked on to the tennis team, becoming captain his junior year. He didn’t play tennis his senior year because a position as the assistant athletic trainer for the football team opened up. After college he continued his studies in exercise science at the University of Connecticut. But he said no book could prepare him for the medical challenges he encountered while working in private practice in the Hartford area, including what he called a “career-defining moment” when he responded to a hockey player after a hard fall on the ice.

“He could move his arms and that was it. I knew there was nothing I could do, but I had to make sure he didn’t get worse,” he said.

Thanks in part to Mr. McCarthy, the player was able to maintain the use of his arms. He said the experience spurred a passion for studying central nervous system injuries, particularly their effect on the brain. In the early 2000s, he started and ran the sports concussion program at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, becoming one of the most recognized concussion experts in the region. But in 2009, when the MVRHS athletic director opened up, Mr. McCarthy said the chance to return to his roots called him home.

“I grew up here,” he said. “How do people go through life without seeing the water every day? Here I drive by the ocean every day.”

Mr. McCarthy has continued his concussion work on-Island alongside MVRHS athletic trainer Tania Laslovich, making the high school one of the top in the nation for concussion care. He said the transition from athletic trainer to athletic director wasn’t difficult, as they both require responding to crises with a can-do attitude and helping student-athletes be in the best condition to succeed. He said during new coach orientation, he drives home the point that the students are their “patients” and his job is to ensure coaches provide them with the best care on and off the field.

“I tell my coaches I work for you, I’m not your boss,” he said. “Everything I do has to support what you do because you have the day-to-day contact. My job is to make sure I do everything I can to get them what they need.”

Mr. McCarthy can still be found on the sidelines of games at the high school making sure everything runs smoothly. He’s one of the first to arrive and last to leave, going unnoticed by most. He said that’s the way he prefers it.

“You don’t go into this position wanting to be the person out in front,” he said. “To me, if nobody knows I’m there, then that’s the best part of the job. That’s what I take pride in.”