The San Marino High School athletics department has gone through several changes the past decade, and the district has decided it’s time for another alteration.
The position of athletic director will now be overseen by assistant principal Eric Bergmann and Nick Sale, who was promoted to the position of coordinator of athletics.
“I think it began with the idea that we had to shore up our budget,” said Bergmann, who oversees activities, athletics, attendance and discipline as vice principal. “The district was looking at ways to save money, so the position of full-time athletic director was changed again.
“We went through the interview process and didn’t land on one solid candidate, so the district came to Nick and me. They said, ‘We could go back to the drawing board and reopen the position, or we can take a look at you two and splitting the responsibilities.’ We felt like, given the fact that Nick has done a good job here, it was the best way to go.”
Bergmann and Sale succeed D. R. Moreland, who will go back to full-time teaching. The one constant in the change is Sale, who has worked at the school since 2014 and developed a good relationship with the community.
“I love what I do,” Sale said. “I love being around the kids. To me, this isn’t work. I get to be around good kids and watch them succeed in the classroom and outside the classroom. I had a very special experience in my high school through athletics, and I want to be able to create that type of environment for the kids here in San Marino. I think the community sees that, and I think that’s why I’ve had the support coming here.”
Sale’s biggest supporter during the process was Bergmann, who only accepted the added responsibility because he’ll be working with the former assistant athletic director.
“I wouldn’t have even suggested I was interested if I knew we didn’t have Nick and he’d have an increased role,” Bergmann said.
As a coordinator of athletics, Sale will continue taking on the day-to-day operations but have a bigger say when it comes to decisions about coaches and the direction of the department.
Bergmann will be responsible for evaluating and developing coaches, as well as acting as a liaison to the San Marino booster clubs.
“I remain confident this will be a successful setup because Nick is good at what he does, and he’s going to be running college athletic programs at some point in his life,” Bergmann said. “This was an easy decision for me once I knew it would happen.”
The new duo has already been busy this summer with the resignation of baseball coach Mack Paciorek. Bergmann and Sale interviewed several candidates and ultimately gave football coach Mike Hobbie additional duties in overseeing the baseball program.
Hobbie has been with the school since 2011 and guided the football team to a CIF Southern Section championship in 2015. His understanding of the community and students is what Bergmann and Sale look for when interviewing new coaches.
“We want coaches who have a kid-first mentality, who know the sport and who celebrate the fact that we are a small school,” Bergmann said.
Sale also hopes to find coaches who are willing to develop their coaching staff to help build a pipeline at San Marino High School and promote stability.
“An important thing is having head coaches who help groom the younger coaches,” Sale said. “We can do so much if the head coach overseeing program does the job correctly and helps younger guys to learn. That way we can create longevity and stability.”
Several programs have struggled to maintain stability, which is why it’s important to Bergmann and Sale to have coaches promoted from within rather than rely from help outside.
“Stability is key,” Bergmann said. “Getting the right people on the bus that can drive us forward is hard to do. Unfortunately, in this day and age, there’s a reduction in the number of candidates who want to apply for coaching positions. There was a day when we’d advertise for a coaching position, and we’d have 30-40 people apply for the job. Now we’d be lucky to crack five. I don’t want to completely depend on external market for stability and success. Let’s build from within so we don’t have to rely on whether or not there’s a field of candidates.”
Another key factor for the athletics department is to promote multi-sport athletes and get every coach onboard to promote the idea to students.
“We’ve had great success against schools twice our size,” Bergmann said. “Part of the success relies on the fact that our programs have to share athletes. We’re not big enough for huge numbers of kids specializing in a sport and going year-round. Nick and I are committed to really taking that to the next level this year and asking current and new coaches how he or she will support and advocate multi-sport athletes. We have to be able to share.”
Bergmann said it’s an idea that has to be discussed with parents, as well, and helps prevent the athlete from burning out.
“It also creates a better-rounded athlete,” Bergmann said. “I dealt with burnout in high school. I played year-round baseball and by senior year, I was just done. I could not care less if I picked up a bat or caught another game. You got one shot in high school. This is it, and I want to make it count for the athletes.”
One way to improve the athletes’ experience is to promote it, and Sale hopes to build up San Marino’s brand of athletics using social media and the website.
“At first, when I started the Twitter account and the new website, it was mainly to get scores out to reporters and CIF,” he said. “It evolved into so much more. The social media platform is huge, and allows you to connect with San Marino members and get out so much information about our great kids and what they’re doing. It promotes what our kids are doing to represent the community and school, and it should be appreciated.”
The school currently is renovating the basketball court in the gym, one of several changes Bergman and Sale hope to oversee when it comes to San Marino’s facilities.
“I would love to see some improvements, but I can give you about 50 million reasons why it’s not happening soon,” Bergmann said. “But I’d love to see some new things. It’s important to note that San Marino is more than just a high school in this town. We are also a community center.”
Bergmann and Sale are working together to help create the best environment for coaches and players, but their biggest goal is the simplest of all.
“Heck yeah I want to win,” Bergmann said. “We’re programmed to win. Age tempers that and takes the edge off, but we want to win.”
“Like Dr. Bergmann said, we do want to win,” Sale added. “Winning is great, and it’s a lot of fun to win.”