It’s something that happens to everyone, especially those who have been doing something for a long time.
As the days pass and the years accumulate, crossing a personal finish line becomes inevitable. People have to deal with having to call it a career and step aside, leaving younger, more energetic people to take the reins of a job or profession in the immediate future and beyond. Energies, ideas, and inspiration become scarcer, and there is always the desire to slow down one’s life as it progresses.
I see that for myself, approaching the age of 68 and being in my 42nd year of local sports coverage. Being at a company that transitioned from manual typewriters to portable computers during this time, the reality of trying to keep up with technological changes sometimes becomes more daunting. One hope is that when people look back on his life and work, the judgment of his worth is favourable.
That won’t be a question for Mickey McDaniel, who is heading into retirement after more than a quarter century of service as the athletic director of the Spring-Ford School District. Indeed, Mickey’s contributions to the district’s athletic programs are constantly on display to the student-athletes who participate in the various sports, the coaches who guide those students, and the spectators who come to cheer on their favorite teams to victory.
Over the years I have met Mickey as an AD and coach, I have found him to be extremely cordial, courteous and helpful in terms of information or accommodation.
I have commented many times on how Mickey could have made a lucrative career running seminars on how to be a sports director. His understanding of the duties of the position was second to none.
One particularly noteworthy thing Mickey did for me happened during a PAC men’s basketball semifinal double round that was being played at the old Spring-Ford High School on a Friday night. As well as a capacity crowd in the gymnasium for the first game, an elbow-to-elbow mass of spectators filled every square inch of the adjoining hall… the potential for a major headache developing as some of the fans grew frustrated by the overflow situation and the possibility that they do not enter the gymnasium.
Having been assigned to cover the second game of the twinbill, I wondered if I was going to be able to make it to the gym for the nightcap. I spotted an assistant from Pottstown High, Todd Wallace, and asked him to let The Mercury’s sportswriter at the time, Tom McNichol, know about my situation. Shortly after, Mickey walked into the lobby and waved me in.
His “routine interference” to me, I regarded as service beyond the call of duty. I doubted then, and I do now, that my press pass would have allowed me free entry into the gymnasium through the massive crowd.
Even on mundane and less incidental matters, Mickey was just as conscientious. There was a case where I left a collapsible umbrella in one of the school press booths during a sporting event. I messaged him about it and several months later when I was back at school covering an event, of course the umbrella was in his office for safekeeping.
Mickey’s attention to detail stands out as one of his strongest assets. In Spring-Ford’s many Pioneer Athletic Conference basketball playoffs over the years, noteworthy are the stat sheets and coaches/media “hospitality rooms” he had put in place. place to be used by these people.
The stat sheets were particularly noteworthy, listing every individual and team stat imaginable. And they weren’t just given out at the end of the game either; first semester sheets have been prepared for distribution. This was the case even for state-level games played at Spring-Ford as a neutral site, whether or not they involved PAC teams.
The “hospitality rooms” regularly offered a variety of food and drink to coaches and media taking breaks between games. As someone who has enjoyed both amenities over the years, I can say they were as welcome as the dedicated spaces in the gymnasium where media representatives could work on stories during games.
He was also very innovative, constantly looking for ways to improve the logistical aspects of sporting events. I saw a good example of this at an athletics meeting in Spring-Ford a few years ago.
Mickey had assembled a number of meet workers with laptops in the Coach McNelly Stadium press room. As the various events were completed, he would instruct the riders to take the score sheets to the press box, where they were typed up, printed, and returned to the coaches.
I found it somewhat mind-boggling, the idea of having dating results prepared on the spot instead of getting them hours later like so many years ago. But it was classic Mickey.
I discovered another convenience from him during the high school softball team’s run to the 2022 PIAA Class 6A Championship. On my way back to my car after the team’s quarter-final victory over Penn Manor, I saw the players and their gear being loaded onto a Lazer Limo bus for the return trip to Royersford.
I had never seen anything like it before: a team traveling to an event in such luxurious accommodation. But softball coach Tim Hughes, and several other coaches along the way, pointed out that it was normal convenience for Mickey to field for teams making the state playoffs in their sports.
Now, that makes perfect sense, considering Mickey’s focus over the years has been on giving student-athletes the best of everything.
There are undoubtedly countless other stories about Mickey McDaniel’s long service to the Spring-Ford School District and youth sports in the twin borough community. Such is a reward for the efforts and energies “Mr. Spring-Ford” brought to his post: To make a positive impression on the people from whom he benefited and to improve the sports programs he supervised.
I wish Mickey McDaniel a happy and productive retirement, knowing full well that he will not fully “retire” in the strictest sense of the word. It will classically depict how people who remain active after retiring from work have the best retirement experiences.
To you, Mickey: Thanks for all you’ve done and keep up the good work.