NEW FRANKLIN  As a new school years begins at Manchester High School, so does a new chapter for the athletic department.

At the end of last school years, athletic director A.J. Hite stepped down from the position, citing the time demands of the job among his reasons. Former varsity boys golf coach and high school social studies teacher Michael Ankrom was picked to succeed Hite.

“After 26 years, I thought a little change and new challenges would be good for me professionally and I feel I have some skills and ideas to continue the improvements (Hite) started,” Ankrom said.

Ankrom has been with the district for 26 years as a teacher and teaches the Principles of Democracy class for seniors. He also serves as the chairman of the social studies department and the senior class advisors, so he has connections to some of the athletes with which he’ll work as athletic director.

He stepped down as the head coach for boys golf after a total of 25 years with the program, including the last 15 leading the Panthers on the links. 

However, despite the extra time and responsibilities, Ankrom insists that teaching will remain the core of his professional life.

“The athletic director position is a supplemental position and my main responsibility remains as a classroom teacher,” Ankrom said. “I will never give up being a classroom teacher.”

Part of the district’s answer to the time demands Hite cited for the athletic director is having an assistant athletic director to lighten the load. The district recently hired Derrick Mauger, who previously coached baseball at the high school and new teaches social studies at Manchester Middle School.

Mauger, who also serves as president of the district’s education association, will have a big role in the department, according to Ankrom.

“(Mauger) will be actively involved in the managing and implementing his leadership skills to help create a more efficient department,” Ankrom said. “The district realized that you need two part-time people to prevent a quick burnout. Derrick and I have worked together in the past in other aspects in the district, so this will be a good fit for the high school.”

The biggest issues Anrkom sees as he steps into his new role are streamlining the department’s processes and communication to help its student athletes, parents and coaches get things done as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The University of Akron alumnus has lived in New Franklin for 20 years and has a good working knowledge of the various pieces and parts that go into making the department work. He noted that he and Mauger have stepped into their new roles “wearing life jackets” as they learn on the job in roles “with more demands than most people realize.”

With two former athletic directors who in the district who are still employed by Manchester Local Schools - Hite and boys basketball coach Gene Schindewolf, Ankrom and Mauger have people with experience to ask questions when they arise.

Ankrom said he speaks with Hite daily and as the new school year kicks off, there will undoubtedly be plenty of conversations as logistical challenges, procedural questions and other topics come up.

One of the current challenges facing the department has been lower numbers turning out for football, with just 36 players on the varsity roster this fall. Head coach Jim France noted previously that 14 then-eighth graders signed up for the sport last school year, but just four of them are with the team as freshmen.

Other recent issues have been head coaching changes for girls basketball and baseball, two of the programs that have enjoyed the most success in the district over the past decade. Integrating new coaches into the mix is part of the process for any athletic director and with a new duo running the athletic department, Manchester believes it has the right people to help write the first pages of this new chapter. 

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