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The AD Q&As: Mike Herrington and Linda Peckham, Hart High School

Posted: July 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Hart High co-athletic directors Mike Herrington, left, and Linda Peckham have been at the school during its highs and lows. Herrington and Peckham both say that this year’s enrollment increase could have an affect on the school’s athletic programs. Hart High co-athletic directors Mike Herrington, left, and Linda Peckham have been at the school during its highs and lows. Herrington and Peckham both say that this year’s enrollment increase could have an affect on the school’s athletic programs.
Hart High co-athletic directors Mike Herrington, left, and Linda Peckham have been at the school during its highs and lows. Herrington and Peckham both say that this year’s enrollment increase could have an affect on the school’s athletic programs.
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Long the standard of prep sports excellence in the Santa Clarita Valley, Hart High School has fallen on harder times the past couple of years.

It's not like the Indians haven't won a single game in any sport. It's just that some of their teams haven't come close to matching previous heights.

Expectations could be part of the problem. Just because a team doesn't accomplish what others have before doesn't mean the season is a failure.

Enrollment is also an issue. Since the middle of the last decade, enrollment at Hart has steadily declined, therefore decreasing the size of the talent pool.

But an increase in the number of students is coming thanks to redistribution within the district, although it remains to be seen what impact it will have for Hart.

Co-athletic directors Mike Herrington and Linda Peckham took time to weigh in on these issues and others.

Mike Herrington, boys athletic director
You've long been an advocate for, among other things, a more even distribution of students among the local high schools in the area. Now that that's happening, what do you expect the overall impact to be?

I'm not sure, it all depends on how balanced the enrollment is throughout the district. But there's different demographics at each school, so it might play a factor, it might not. It's just that you've got to have that opportunity to have an equal playing field.

Enrollment could be one of the reasons that some of the perennial power programs at Hart have struggled recently. What are some others?
Coaching changes, things like that. I think it's a big thing that you go from, a school goes from 3,000 students to 2,100. That's 900 students. That's a lot of students to pull athletes from, so it's been a factor involved.

As football coach, you know as well as anyone that there's a great tradition of excellence with Hart High athletics. What are the pros and cons of that reputation?
The tradition, it makes the kids that are going to school now strive to be in the same group, the same category as some of the players in the past. The cons are you always have to live up to that expectation. But high school's different from anything else, because you only have athletes for so many years and then they move on, so you can't go by your tradition all the time. It's about the present and what the kids in the present do.

The three head coaches in the three biggest sports (football, boys basketball, baseball) have all been at Hart for more than a decade. What does that kind of stability mean for the program?
It means a great deal. The stability, kids know what's expected when they come in. They can talk to past players. Parents can talk to past players or past parents. So just the consistency throughout the years, it just makes a big difference.

Linda Peckham, girls athletic director
With some of the more tradition-rich programs at Hart having struggled the past couple years, others have grown. What does that mean for the athletic program as a whole?

I think with all athletics, you go in cycles. It's just the way cycles work. Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down. I definitely think football's going to recycle real soon. There will be a big difference the next year or two for sure. Sometimes you get enough of a group that can create a legacy and have success breed success.

Mike Herrington has been a big advocate of more even distribution of students between the local high schools. What kind of impact do you feel that will have for Hart?
Obviously, being a small school has a huge effect. There's a large discrepancy between the largest and smallest school. Generally, every school has its share of elite athletes, but having the depth of athletes is what programs need and where it really comes in. It's important to stay as balanced as we can.

What's it like working with another athletic director as opposed to having the job to yourself?
For me, it's fabulous, because it allows me to be a mom, too. If I was the sole athletic director, something would have to be sacrificed. Either I wouldn't be home with my family, or I wouldn't be able to do a good job as athletic director. For me, it's really been a godsend because I really like doing the athletic program. Being able to have Mike on the other end of it has really been good.

This past spring, Hart hired Terra Palmer to coach the girls basketball team. Curiously enough, she's the first female head basketball coach in the Foothill League this millennium. What is the significance of the hire?
I don't know necessarily that there is a significance, other than we're hiring the best person available for the position. It doesn't matter if it's male or female, but it's the person we feel is going to do the job best. From a female perspective, I always like having women coaches on board. You may not realize, I coached boys volleyball, Mary (Keen) coaches boys volleyball, so we have some women who coach the boys' teams, too. A lot of times it's harder for the women to be in head coaching positions because of family issues. They take on the greater roles in support for their kids and that type of thing. It's hard for women to do that kind of thing if you don't have a hugely supportive husband on board. But again, we hire who's best for the position.

 

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