With time running out and summer break about to end, Blaine High School football coach Shannon Gerrety made a heroic play, stepping from the sidelines of the gridiron and taking a seat in the school’s administrative offices – a seat left open with the sudden departure last month of activities director Neil Fletcher.
It was a move Gerrety hadn’t anticipated, a play for which he hadn’t trained, but the longtime winning coach knew it was a move he couldn’t pass up.
“Activities are an important part of kids’ lives and they need a good leader… I’m ready to be that leader,” said the Bengals’ former coach turned activities director.
While he welcomes the challenge, Gerrety acknowledges feelings of loss.
“It’ll be tough this fall when football starts and I’m not out there on the field,” Gerrety said last week, anticipating his response to the shift as he sifts through the folders, organizes stacks of books, reviews schedules and sorts through e-mails in his new office.
“I love our football program. I love the staff, love the kids – and I also love Blaine High School,” said Gerrety, a 1984 graduate of BHS who joined the football coaching staff the fall of 1985, first as assistant coach, then coordinator, then head coach.
During his 27 years coaching at Blaine, the Bengals have accumulated an impressive win-loss record, reaching the section finals 14 consecutive times from 1992 to 2005 and advancing to the state tournament eight times.
Yes, Gerrety has known victory on the gridiron, both as a coach and as a player – he was captain of the Bengal football team his senior year.
But football is not the only extracurricular activity the new activities director knows – when he was a student Gerrety also was on the swim team, ran track and played in the concert band.
“As a student, I wasn’t very good at anything – but I did a lot of stuff,” Gerrety said, smiling modestly.
It’s that involvement that Gerrety hopes today’s BHS students take advantage of while they are part of the Bengal family.
“It’s important that kids get involved,” he said. “They get exposure to different experiences, different kids, different cultures. I want kids to come to Blaine and be involved some how, some way. I want every kid to leave this place a better person, to leave this place a better place because they were here.”
The new activities director sees something special in each of the nearly 3,000 students who walk the corridors and take their seats in the classrooms at BHS.
“Every kid has a gift they bring to Blaine,” Gerrety said. “And they all need to know they are valuable. They all need to know that what they do – what they bring – is important.”
Even as he reviews a packed schedule and anticipates long hours on the AD job, even as he mourns the loss of his position on the sidelines, Gerrety pledges to practice a super fan persona in his new position.
“I will be present, I will be supportive and I will be encouraging these kids – whether it’s at a concert, at a play, at a game, at debate or speech – I’ll be around. I want these kids to know they bring a gift to Blaine, and that gift is valuable,” he said.
The Blaine Bengals’ offensive coordinator, Tom Develice, is now head football coach.
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]