by Ken Brown
HARDWICK – On May 26 John Sperry was honored at Hudson Fields for his fifteen plus years of service as Hazen Union’s athletic director, but it turned out to be a final farewell as he walked away at the end of the school year.
Sperry will turn 61 this fall and has been involved in the education of Hardwick’s youth in one way or another for the past 32 years. He served as a physical education teacher, coach, and directed the athletic program at Hardwick Elementary for seventeen years before accepting the athletic director position at Hazen Union in 2006.
“I got into this profession because I love watching kids get valuable life lessons through sport and competition. I think I had an old school approach to things that probably wasn’t always that popular, but it is a position where I took my responsibilities seriously and chose to hold myself to a higher standard and I’m proud of that. I kept my decision to leave quiet because I didn’t want any type of fanfare, but I’m going to miss the kids and the athletes a lot. I love Hazen and Hardwick Elementary and I’ve bled red and white or red, white, and blue for over 30 years,” said Sperry.
His future plans are to continue to run Sperry’s Lawncare out of East Hardwick and enjoy the rest of the summer. He wouldn’t rule out coaching somewhere in the future and admits that he won’t miss the 24-7 grind that being a high school A.D. had become the past few years. Several Vermont high schools will also have new athletic directors this coming fall including Craftsbury Academy, Peoples Academy, U-32, Randolph, and Thetford Academy to name a few. Sperry looks forward to having an end to his day and admits that isn’t always the case as an A.D. at a high school. He also appreciated the support he always felt from Hazen principal Jason DiJiulio and vice principal Kasey Potter.
“Jason and Kasey were great and they always made you feel supported, but honestly I just didn’t want to fight the fight anymore. I have zero issues with the athletes at Hazen, they are great kids. One of my biggest enjoyments has been watching these middle school girls and boys develop into fabulous young men and women at the high school level and in the community. People can say I’m too old school or whatever and I’m fine with all that, but I’m proud of how officials and coaches from other schools come up to me at games and congratulate Hazen and our community for having a group of class act student athletes. My goal here at Hazen was to give the kids every opportunity to succeed and if I had to sweep a floor or line a field to make that happen, I was happy to do it. I’m stepping down, but I’ll still be around the area and will always help out in any way that I can,” said Sperry.
Hazen head baseball coach Spencer Howard has seen Sperry give his baseball field and program countless hours of personal time over the years and hopes to continue to see him in the future.
“You couldn’t ask for a better athletic director in my opinion. The personal time he gives to the kids, donating his own time and equipment, and without wanting any recognition for it was just amazing. He was like that with all of the programs at Hazen and you couldn’t ask for a better person and we’re going to miss him,” said Howard.
Wildcat head basketball coach Aaron Hill has won four of his six state championships at Hazen under Sperry and had these parting words.
“John’s organizational skills are top notch and I can’t remember one time in the past sixteen years where we ever had a late bus or there was a scheduling error, but the best thing about him as our A.D. was that it was much more than a job to him. His loyalty and passion for Hazen and its athletes was special. He went above and beyond his A.D. responsibilities, whether it be taping ankles, raising money, running pep rallies, and so much more. John was everything you would want an athletic director to be and he will be greatly missed,” said Hill.
Legendary athlete, coach, administrator, and 25 years as Hazen’s athletic director, Dan Hudson had this to say about Sperry.
“The responsibility of that job is do what is right for the kids. John did a good job at Hazen and helped the sports programs grow, but more importantly he gave those kids over the years an awful lot,” said Hudson.
Hazen Union officially hired Jared Cushing of Blue Mountain last week to become their next athletic director. The 21-year-old will be the youngest A.D. in the state of Vermont.