Following a year like we’ve never seen before, sports are back to normal — for the most part — at Whitman-Hanson Regional High.
The Express caught up with W-H athletic director Bob Rodgers for a preview of the 2021-22 year.
Q: What gets you most excited for a new year of athletics?
A: “It’s always exciting to come back in the fall and have this sense of renewal. Everyone has a chance to begin with a clean slate and soon we learn how hard the kids worked over the summer.”
Q: What’s your favorite part of the school year and why?
A: “The return to school is always my favorite time of year as we see our seniors take on a new leadership role in the school and the freshmen joining the Panther family.”
Q: How do you feel playing a sport benefits students?
A: “There are so many aspects to what sports can do for young people. They learn many life lessons and develop important characteristics such as dedication, discipline, resiliency, loyalty just to name a few. But I think it is the relationships that matter most. In many cases, kids are making friendships that will last a lifetime.”
Q: What are the highs and lows of being an AD?
A: “The best part is seeing kids grow from that young freshmen to that confident senior. It is a privilege to play a small role in that. The low point comes when people hold coaches and officials to a standard that no one can live up to. None of us, in any walk of life, can be perfect. It takes the joy out of the experience when this happens.”
Q: For those who don’t know, what goes into the role of an AD? How much time do you have?
A: “Being an AD encompasses so many different elements. From hiring, mentoring and supervising coaches to scheduling games, dealing with the financial challenges, building culture, training student leaders and administering all of the rules from the state and the league there really is very little time to take a breath.”
Q: When you look back on last year, what moment(s) stick out?
A: “Two things come to mind immediately. The first is just how great it was to see kids back competing after losing that chance due to COVID the previous spring. We all had a renewed appreciation for what we have. The other was seeing the boys’ cross-country team go undefeated. Coach [Steve] George is such an amazing man and a terrific coach who is so deeply committed to our kids. Seeing them win it will be a highlight that will stick with me for a long time.”
Q: Have there been any improvements in athletics for this upcoming year?
A: “We continue to be a beta testing school for HUDL. All of our teams have access to this video system but now out at the fields we have HUDL focus and sideline which will give our coaches an automated way to record games.”
Q: Are there any changes in W-H athletics this season from coaches to schedule release?
A: “We do have some new coaches this fall. Tony Reis replaces Dave Leahy as boys’ soccer head coach. Dave had to step away due to his work commitments. Zack Botelho is our new football coach taking over for Mike Driscoll, who retired to spend more time with his family.
“One of the other major changes this school year deals with the MIAA. They have changed to a new website and scheduling system. The old app and website will not longer be the place to find schedules and information. Now people will want to download the arbiter sports app. A link to the schedule and calendar can be found at www.whathletics.com.”
Q: Are there any teams at W-H that you have your eye on to make a deep postseason run or perhaps surprise some people?
A: “Wow, that is such a tough question because the kids in so many sports have been working so hard. We are lucky that our teams compete at such a high level and sometimes we get a little spoiled. I know this, any W-H sporting event will be a fantastic event for Whitman and Hanson families to attend.”
Q: Are there any dates that fans of W-H athletics should mark down on their calendars for any reason?
A: “Maybe Christmas? It may be the only day of the year where there isn’t some W-H athletic practice or game taking place.”
Q: What are you hoping to see as the year gets underway?
A: “I want to see kids smiling, having fun and showing great sportsmanship.”