by GEOFF FOX
When Hancock Panther fans head out to Paul Imphong Field next fall for the Hancock-Clear Spring game, a familiar face will be in his normal seat in the end zone, but he won’t be wearing Hancock colors. Instead Bill Sterner will be wearing the blue and yellow of the Clear Spring Blazers.
Effective July 1, Sterner, the longtime Hancock Athletic Director and coach, will be taking that position at Clear Spring High School. He will be taking over for director Lisa Shives who is retiring at the end of the school year.
Sterner, who also qualifies for retirement, isn’t going anywhere.
“I’m not ready to retire. I don’t feel like I’m ready to retire,” he said. “I feel like I still want to do this job. I like what I’m doing. It’s a passion.”
Earlier this month, Sterner was called into a meeting with Hancock Principal Sabrina McCoy for a human resources issue.
“I didn’t know if it was about a coach, or about paperwork or something I needed to file,” Sterner said.
The HR person told him the superintendent and budget committee had decided they were not going to have a full-time vice principal or full-time athletic director at Hancock High School.
Sterner said the two positions were to be combined into one job at the school.
Washington County Public Schools offered Sterner two jobs – Clear Spring’s athletic director post or Smithsburg’s – if he wanted to continue to work.
Sterner chose the Clear Spring job because of travel time and because he is familiar with the school. He said he knows the passion of the community, how involved the parents are, and that the school has a strong competitive spirit.
Sterner said he is looking forward to being the Clear Spring athletic director, but it’s bittersweet because he loves the Hancock community and school.
Sterner has spent his entire adult life in Hancock and coached his first game at Hancock High School in 1977. He has been teaching in Hancock since 1983.
Sterner was the football coach for 28 years, coached softball for 15 years, spent a few years as track coach, and filled in a couple of times for the basketball coach.
He said the job is like “a refresher” for someone who has been at the same job for a number of years.
Sterner said his fellow teachers were in shock about the job change and students didn’t find out until it was in a Herald-Mail article last week.
When the kids found out, he said several have stopped at his office to talk to him. Sterner said he wasn’t being secretive about the job. He’s the athletic director at Hancock and that’s the job he’s fulfilling right now.
Sterner said the boys basketball team is coming up, there is a good run of female athletes, and there is the ongoing challenge of keeping the football team and other teams going.
He said he loved being able to walk down the hallways in Hancock, talk to the kids and trying to get them to come out for one of the teams.
When Sterner came to Hancock, he said it was a cultural shock because he had attended high school where there were 4,000 students. Hancock was so small.
He said he now sees the benefit of the small school as his children went through local schools.
Sterner said he’s made a number of memories over the years at Hancock and a quick glance around his office shows that.
Pictures of football teams, plaques, photos of athletes, varsity letters, and other mementos cover the walls alongside personal pictures and Pittsburgh sports memorabilia.
He said some of the best memories he has are the games Hancock wasn’t supposed to win, including a 1986 football game against Moorefield — then ranked #3 in West Virginia — when the Panthers upset the Yellow Jackets.
Sterner also mentioned the playoff runs of great softball and basketball teams.
“Those were all great memories,” he said.
Sterner hopes people would think he always defended the school in the most professional way, wanted the best for the teams, and did it honestly and by the rules.
Over the years, he tried to find the best coaches and support the efforts of the players and parents.
Even though he’ll be the head guy for Clear Spring High School’s sports, Sterner said he’d still try to get to Hancock home games.
While he’ll have an office at Clear Spring, Hancock won’t be too far away. A clock with the Hancock Panther’s logo on the face will accompany Sterner to the new office.