Thursday September 11, 2014
Ed Hockenbury brings experience, enthusiasm, and high expectations to his new position as athletic director for South Burlington schools. Hockenbury comes to South Burlington after spending the last seventeen years as athletic director of Essex High School. In an opportunity to sit down with Hockenbury, the new AD outlined his goals to renovate the position, as well as collaborate with the student body and the South Burlington community where he already has strong ties.
“Essex was great,” said Hockenbury “There are so many people there that I care for and that I’ll miss. However, there are several reasons that motivated me to take over as athletic director at South Burlington. I’ve been a South Burlington resident for many years and can, in fact, ride my bike to work now in half the time it took me to commute to Essex High School.” Hockenbury also has two children at South Burlington High School and considers working in close proximity another perk of the job. “I see both my sons during the day, and it’s nice to be able to do the job where I live. I see kids every day now, at the high school level, that I’ve coached in basketball and baseball over the years. Connections with the South Burlington community and the students have continued to grow in size and number over the years.”
While these represent some of the highlights of the position, Hockenbury has been working tirelessly to develop a unified plan for progress in the South Burlington athletic department since taking over the role in July from veteran administrator Mike O’Day, who retired last year.
“I think the most important thing to figure out in taking over the athletic director position is to see what’s being done here, and what is being done well.” said Hockenbury “Despite my experience at the position, I want to be constantly learning about South Burlington and working and learning from coaches, faculty, and staff.”
Within this learning process, Hockenbury outlined some short term goals for his first year on the job. “For starters, one of my goals is to redo and improve the athletic department website. We have a lot of great information there- I’m hoping to make it more user-friendly and pleasing to the eye.”
Hockenbury also discussed the goal of improving training facilities for South Burlington athletes. “We have the best tennis program in the state and at the moment, we have two full teams occupying three courts.” He also has ambitious plans for updating South Burlington’s gym and workout facility, the latter of which occupies a single cramped balcony area overlooking the Rebel basketball courts. “This isn’t just about us winning more games. Would that be a nice bonus over time? Yeah. However this is about creating a direct benefit to education, as well as creating more opportunities for both students and athletes.”
Hockenbury also expressed his gratitude to the South Burlington Recreation department, who he says have been great in supporting the Rebel’s athletic programs.
Another goal for Hockenbury’s first year on the job is to further involve South Burlington students in the work of the athletic department. This includes creating a position for a sports information intern, as well as the project that Hockenbury seems most passionate about, creating a student-driven athletic leadership council for athletes in grades 10-12. “I think it’s important that, as athletic director, I’m in constant contact with both coaches and students.” said Hockenbury “This doesn’t have to be formal meetings; for example, when I was at the football game last week, I hung around after the game to connect with the team and coach MacDonald. It can be informal, as long as the contact is consistent and ongoing.”
Finally, Hockenbury talked about the troubling issue of hazing, and how to address this in high school athletics. While this has always been a concern among athletic directors, teams, and coaches across the state, it has been brought into focus by the recent allegations of criminal behavior occurring at Milton high school. Hockenbury was open about the fact that a hazing incident occurred in his first year of being athletic director at Essex, but took a clear and definitive stance on the issue. “It’s all about culture and community. We want to create a culture where kids want to be teammates and friends. We also want to explain unequivocally to our student athletes that what occurred at Milton was against the law and that hazing can have serious legal consequences.”
This brought the conversation back to Hockenebury’s idea for an athletic council, allowing players to have an active role in team leadership and creating a positive environment for all athletes, as well as creating an additional connection between teams and adult role models like Hockenbury and other South Burlington coaches. “Hazing is something we talk about, and it was something I addressed early on at our first coaches meeting. When I meet with the captains, I don’t necessarily use the word “hazing”, but try to put a more positive spin on it, emphasizing the idea of “servant leadership”, where captains are the ones carrying the water out to practice, and the upper classmen are supporting the younger players on the teams.”
Hockenbury might not be out to reinvent the wheel in his first year as athletic director at South Burlington, but he has infused the school with a shot of energy, ambition, and passion for working with students, coaches and the South Burlington community. This dedication is backed by an impressive performance record as assistant athletic director at UVM and athletic director at Essex High School. “I like what I do.” said Hockenbury “I want to have a positive impact on kids lives. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I want to put together the right group of people who can move these issues forward.”
SOURCE: Peter Culkin, Correspondent