It’s almost impossible to imagine Salesianum School athletics without Mike Hart. But it looks like we’ll have to – after 43 years, Hart has announced that he will retire from his job as athletic director after this school year.
Forty-three years is a long time and Hart has seen plenty of changes at the school on 18thand Broom streets. Most of the changes have been good, and certainly, nobody can argue with Salesianum’s success during Hart’s tenure, which includes more than 100 state championships in just about every sport.
Fashions have changed, technology has changed and certainly, tuition has changed (when Hart was a student at Salesianum in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it cost about $350 a year to attend Sallies; now it’s $16,500). But Mike Hart’s steady hand has guided Salesianum athletics throughout it all.
Hart will be replaced as athletic director by Scott Mosier, the current Sallies soccer coach – a sport that didn’t even exist at Salesianum when Hart was a student there.
I was a mediocre athlete at Sallies when Hart got his real start in the business – he was a student assistant to Mr. Parks, the equipment manager, and he did the dirty work, like picking up towels from the locker room floor and loading them into the industrial-sized washing machine.
It was a common sight to see Hart hustling around as Mr. Park’s right-hand man, and it was a thankless job, which means it prepared him well for his future career. And Mike Hart performed both jobs – locker room boy and elder statesman – with the same dedication, efficiency and good humor.
That doesn’t mean it’s always been easy. Everybody knows what high school athletic directors do in a broad sense, but nobody really knows the million-and-one details they have the wrestle with every day – except for their families, of course, who also have to deal with the long hours and unexpected (and unwelcomed) phone calls at all hours of the day and night.
Everything falls in the athletic directors’ laps — the scheduling, the buses, the facilities and, of course, the athletes and (especially) their parents. And when something goes wrong, as it invariably does, it’s up to the athletic director to fix it, and fix it now.
Plus, Hart faced pressures at Salesianum that few if any other athletic directors in the state have to deal with – the intense (albeit subtle) pressure to win, in every sport, all of the time. That pressure comes from alumni who expect and demand victory, and an administration that relies on satisfied alumni when fund-raising time rolls around.
That doesn’t mean that anybody from the alumni or the administration ever pushed or even nudged Hart if things weren’t going well, but that pressure was there, always. Mike Hart knew it and accepted and thrived despite and/or because of it. He understood the legacy and demands of Salesianum athletics and it never fazed him. He also understood that other people are jealous of Sallies’ successes and others, rightfully so, resent the fact that the all-boys school has advantages in athletics that most schools don’t have.
There’s also the pressure to make sure that Salesianum athletes always emulate the example of our patron saint, Francis de Sales, the gentleman saint. That’s not always easy when you deal with thousands of hormone-fueled teen-agers as Hart has done over the decades, and he’s had to handle disciplinary problems more than once during his long career.
So, there have been plenty of headaches over the past four decades, but even more triumphs, and when you’ve hoisted as many championship trophies as Mike Hart has over the years, well, that makes up for a lot.
But, like all educators who have toiled at their mostly thankless jobs for a long time, Hart’s biggest impact has been on all the athletes, and their families, that he has dealt with over his career. He’s earned their respect by working hard and caring a lot.
Hart will still be involved with Salesianum as he helps the school redevelop and rebrand Baynard Stadium. And we’re sure he’ll still be a regular presence at Sallies sporting events, although he may have a hard time sitting still instead of running around to make sure everything is running smoothly, as it almost always did when Mike Hart was in charge.