Jack Holmes is pretty familiar with education and athletics. For him, the two have always gone hand-in-hand.
Holmes, 70, worked in the Jerseyville School District for 30 years before retiring from there. In September he decided to take the interim director of athletics job at Marquette Catholic High, replacing Sara Ulrich. Since then the interim tag has been lifted and Holmes is in the driver’s seat of the Marquette athletic program as the AD.
He’s been busy since taking over the reins of the Explorer program, developing relationships, making hires and building a program. He’s loving every minute of it.
“At my age you better settle in pretty quick or you won’t have time to settle in,” Holmes said, laughing. “I’m settled in pretty good and I certainly have enjoyed it. It’s been a fun year. It kind of goes along with my philosophy when people ask me what I do when I’m retired and I say, ‘Well, you do what you want to do.’ This is what I want to do and I’m certainly having fun doing it.”
He’s having fun because it’s in his blood. Holmes coached football for 30 years at the middle school level in Jerseyville, as well as working as an assistant in track at the high school and being the head coach at the middle school.
On top of that, he worked as a basketball referee.
“I was a basketball referee for 35 years,” Holmes said, chuckling. “And I’ve done some coaching.”
He wore a lot of hats at Jerseyville’s Illini Middle School, from dean of students, teacher, AD, assistant principal and principal for the final 15 years.
As he’s become acclimated at Marquette, Holmes has noticed it’s not that much different from the middle school to high school level.
“I did quite a bit of athletic director work there and even though it was at the middle school, it was very much like what we do here,” Holmes said. “It’s dealing with other schools, other coaches and lots of referees and I always loved that part of the job, so jumping back in the saddle this year was kind of a reminder of how much fun I had when I was doing it in Jerseyville.
“I refereed my last high school game in 2009 and I kind of quit going to ball games, so it was a lot of fun this year to be back watching basketball and realizing a lot of my old friends are still coaching and refereeing and there are a lot of athletics directors I know. It’s not really that different from high school to the middle school except when you go to state; it’s a little bigger deal here.”
Holmes was able to see the Explorer boys’ golf team and the girls’ soccer team advance to the state tournament during his first year, along with some boys’ and girls’ tennis players in the fall and spring. He admitted that was a big thrill.
Maybe the biggest thrill, though, have been the hires.
“It’s always fun when you get to hire people,” Holmes said.
The first major hire of Holmes’ tenure was that of head girls’ basketball coach Lee Green, who was an assistant for SIUE women’s basketball under Wendy Hedberg from 2002-08. He also assisted Jonathan Denney at Civic Memorial from ‘09-11 and has worked on the AAU circuit as a coach.
“We hired a new girls’ basketball coach and that was a real fulfilling event for us because we had so many good candidates,” Holmes said. “Of course we picked who we thought was the best, so we’re real excited where we’re headed with that.”
New dance coach Danielle Lusicic also has been added, along with a new assistant volleyball coach and boys’ basketball coach.
Another highlight, according to Holmes, is the decision to institute a bowling program at Marquette. Mark Jones will direct the boys’ and girls’ programs and has quite a bit of insight into the sport. Holmes didn’t spare any praise when talking about Jones.
“We are starting a bowling program based on the fact I did a survey and found out we had approximately 30 students here who would like to be on a bowling team and were serious about it,” Holmes said. “We had several outstanding choices to coach there and who we hired is an outstanding bowler. He’s had over 30 perfect games in his life and several 800 series. He just can’t wait to get out there and teach kids to bowl.”
And Holmes can’t wait to see what the ‘16-17 season has in store for the Explorers. He feels like he’s got a good handle on things and is ready to continue having a good time doing it.
“To me it’s all about sports and all about relationships, and I’ve realized I have a lot of friends out there,” Holmes said. “Guys like Steve Carey, who is in his last year at CM, we’ve known each other forever. This was his last year, but it’s been fun working with these people.
“Now that my feet are wet, it’s not going to take me forever to do some of the tasks I’ve done. I’ve got myself organized with scheduling, for example. Now I’ve got it standardized where when I do a schedule I’m really doing two schedules, the one now and really preparing for next year. That makes things go a little easier.”
Let’s hope the ‘16-17 season will be an easy one for Holmes, and a good one too.
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