The new man in charge

John Haggard

UNION MILLS — Athletics administration had been on John Haggard's career radar since he was doing his undergraduate work at IU South Bend.

The blip just happened to show up on the screen a little sooner than expected for the 2005 New Prairie grad, who was hired as South Central's Athletics Director at Tuesday's school board meeting.

"Being an AD has been a goal of mine for while, something I wanted to do long-term," Haggard said. "I just never thought it would come open this quick. I thought I would wait a couple years and it happened to open up this year."

Haggard replaces Jarad Maller, who has taken an assistant principal's position in Valparaiso.

"John's earned this," South Central principal Ben Anderson said. "He's earned the respect of the students, his colleagues. He was the No. 1 choice of all the committee members. He's a sports-minded guy. He knows what it takes to have a successful athletic program. We already have successful programs and we want to maintain them."

What Haggard wants to bring to the position is continuity that it's been lacking in recent years, a revolving door that's often been a result of people moving up in the ranks within the school system, like Anderson.

"From my first time here and coming back, I've loved what they've done," Haggard said. "It's just been someone new doing it each year. My goal is to not have this conversation next year. My five-year plan is to be in the same office, unless they build me a new one."

A three-sport athlete at New Prairie (football, basketball and track), Haggard went to Indiana State on a football scholarship, but returned home when his father became ill and subsequently died. After a period of time back in the general work force, Haggard got into officiating and coached middle school basketball. He eventually returned to school at IU South Bend, from where he graduated. He student taught at South Central for a year before spending two years at La Porte.

"It's just the amount of time I get to spend around athletics, working with young people," he said. "That's the reason I got back into it. I get to do it all day now. I loved teaching fourth grade. I'm torn between being really excited about the new job and a little sad about missing the kids."

Part of Haggard's plan in promoting the school's student-athletes is using the VNN (Varsity News Network) website to post results and updates and getting the coaches on board with it as well.

"Start off at least by making every score accessible right away," he said. "It can be a pain searching different Twitter, Facebook accounts. We have kids doing great things here and there's more coming up. I'd like to make sure people know that. Give them a reason to get into the gym, the field, diamond, whatever. I see how much school spirit the kids can have when we really promote it like the (Porter County Conference) tournament. I know they know how to cheer. How do we get them here every time? If we get kids in the door, that brings in parents. People see that and it makes it a more fun atmosphere to come to."

The school will be moving up to Class 2A in volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball in the upcoming cycle, and Haggard believes the coaches and athletes have embraced the challenge.

"We have good, young coaches all the way through who love the kids, who are excited, and we hope to continue that trend with the new baseball coach," he said ."I think the jump from 2A to 3A is a little more daunting than 1A to 2A. I feel we'll still be competitive. I know how hard all our sports are working, the time they put in. They'll be ready for it."

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