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STOVER: McDaniel built an athletic operation second to none at Spring-Ford

It’s something that happens to everyone, particularly those who do something for a long time.

As days goes by and the years pile up, the crossing of a personal finish line becomes an inevitability. People have to deal with having to call it a career and step to the side, letting younger, more energetic individuals take the reins of a job or profession for the immediate future and beyond. Energies, ideas and inspiration become shorter in supply, and there is always the desire to slow one’s life down as it moves further on.

I myself am finding that to be the case, nearing age 68 and being in my 42nd year of covering local sports. Being in a business that’s evolved from manual typewriters to laptop computers in that span, the reality of trying to keep up with the technological changes is becoming more daunting at times. One hope is that when people look back on one’s life and work, the judgment of his/her value is favorable.

Spring-Ford head coach Mickey McDaniel calls out to his team during a District 1 playoff game against Upper Dublin in 2021. McDaniel is retiring as AD at Spring-Ford but will remain the school’s girls basketball coach. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

That won’t be a question for Mickey McDaniel, who is heading for retirement after more than a quarter-century of service as the Spring-Ford School District’s athletic director. That’s because Mickey’s contributions to the district’s sports programs are constantly on display for the student-athletes who participate in the various sports, the coaches who guide those students and the spectators who come out to cheer their favorite teams on to victory.

Over the years I interfaced with Mickey in his capacities as AD and coach, I found him to be extremely cordial, courteous and helpful in terms of information or accommodations.

I’ve commented on numerous occasions how Mickey could have made a lucrative career conducting seminars on how to be an athletic director. His grasp of the duties of the post was beyond compare.

One particularly notable thing Mickey did for me happened during a PAC boys basketball semifinal-round doubleheader which was being played at the old Spring-Ford high school on a Friday night. In addition to a capacity crowd in the gym for the first game, a shoulder-to-shoulder mass of spectators filled every inch of the adjoining lobby area … the potential for a major headache developing as some of the fans were becoming frustrated with the overflow situation and the possibility they would not get into the gym.

Having been assigned to cover the second game of the twinbill, I was concerned about whether I was going to be able to make it into the gym for the nightcap. I did spot a Pottstown High assistant, Todd Wallace, and asked him to advise The Mercury’s sports editor at the time, Tom McNichol, of my situation. Shortly thereafter, Mickey came into the lobby and signalled me to come in.

His “running interference” for me I saw as being service above and beyond the call of duty. I doubted then, and do now, my press card would have afforded me unimpeded entrance into the gym through the massive crowd.

On even mundane and less incidental matters, Mickey was just as conscientious. There was an instance where I left a collapsible umbrella in one of the school’s press boxes during a sports event. I messaged him about it and several months later, when I was back at the school covering an event, sure enough the umbrella was in his office for safekeeping.

Mickey’s attention to detail stands out as one of his stronger suits. At the numerous Pioneer Athletic Conference basketball playoffs Spring-Ford hosted over the years, noteworthy were the statistical sheets and coaches/media “hospitality rooms” he had set up for use by those individuals.

The stat sheets were particularly notable, listing every individual and team statistical imaginable. And they weren’t just distributed at game’s end, either; first-half sheets were prepared for dissemination. That was the case even for state-level games played at Spring-Ford as a neutral site, whether they did or didn’t involve teams from the PAC.

The “hospitality rooms” regularly offered a variety of food and drink for the coaches and media taking breaks between games. As one who benefited from both amenities over the years, I can say they were as welcome as the areas set aside in the gym at which media representatives could work on stories during games.

He was also highly innovative, constantly looking for ways to upgrade the logistical aspects of sports events. I saw a great example of that on the occasion of a track meet at Spring-Ford some years ago.

Mickey had assembled a number of meet workers with laptops in the Coach McNelly Stadium press box. As the various events were completed, he had runners bring the scoresheets to the press box, where they were typed up, printed out and sent back to the coaches.

I found it somewhat mind-boggling, the idea of having meet results prepared on the spot in contrast to getting them several hours later like so many years before. But that was classic Mickey.

I discovered another amenity of his doing during the high school softball team’s run to the 2022 PIAA Class 6A championship. Heading back to my car after the team’s quarterfinal-round victory against Penn Manor, I saw the players and gear being loaded into a Lazer Limo bus for the return trip back to Royersford.

I had never seen anything like that before: A team traveling to an event in such luxurious accommodations. But softball coach Tim Hughes then, and several other coaches along the way, pointed out that was a normal amenity Mickey lined up for teams who qualified for state playoffs in their sports.
Now, it makes perfect sense, given Mickey’s focus over the years on giving the student-athletes the best of everything.

There are no doubt countless more stories about Mickey McDaniel’s long service to the Spring-Ford School District and youth sports in the twin-boroughs community. Such is one reward for the efforts and energies “Mr. Spring-Ford” brought to his post: Making a positive impression on the people he benefited, and bettering the sports programs he oversaw.

I wish Mickey McDaniel a happy and productive retirement, knowing full well he will not fully “retire” in the strictest sense of the word. He’ll classically represent how people who stay active after retiring from the workplace have the best retirement experiences.

To you, Mickey: Thanks for all you did, and keep up the good work.

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