By Fred Kroner
Matt Hensley’s influence and impact on the high school sporting scene is extending from the local to the national level.
The veteran Mahomet-Seymour athletic director was seated on the 15-member National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association last month to start a three-year term.
He is appreciative of the chance.
“To represent our state and our high school is a great once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I never envisioned or aspired to,” Hensley said. “I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around it.”
Hensley joined the state athletic directors’ association almost as soon as he was hired for the job at Effingham St. Anthony.
“When I student-taught (at Robinson), the athletic director was involved with the IADA (Illinois Athletic Directors’ Association) and I felt it was good use of time and resources to be around people who’d been doing it for a long time,” Hensley said.
“I credit a great deal of my opportunities to my involvement with the IADA.”
The early role models for Hensley included such state heavyweights as Drew Pottoff (Woodstock Marian), John Van Fleet (Streator and Sterling), John Szabo (Bloomington), Charlie Lockenour (Heyworth) and Steve Haines (Seneca).
“I’d see the elder statesmen of the association, people who were highly respected in the field and not envision I had anything in common with these people other than a job title,” Hensley said.
“To listen and learn how they manage their programs is invaluable.”
It was by coincidence that Hensley got his foot in the door with the NIAAA.
He was at a 2009 M-S football home game against Marshall, coached by Todd Evers, whose father (John) was a long-time athletic director at Castle High School, in Newburgh, Ind.
Hensley knew about John Evers — who was in attendance — by more than reputation.
“I’d read articles he’d written,” Hensley said.
As the two men spoke that afternoon, Hensley posed a question to the elder Evers.
“I asked how I could get an article published (in the national magazine),” Hensley said, “and he said, ‘You can start by sending it to me.’ “
Hensley then submitted an article on managing a football Friday night, covering aspects ranging from the band to officials to locker rooms to time management.
It was published (in the summer of 2011) as were stories about Dawgapalooza and Bulldog TV (co-written by Nic DiFilippo). Soon to go into print is an article that Hensley and Dan Waldinger co-authored about intergovernmental agreements for schools to share facilities with the parks and rec department.
A year after his first article was printed, Hensley was the choice when an opening occurred on the national publication committee.
In the summer of 2016, Hensley was asked to consider an appointment to the national Board of Directors.
“I represent Section IV and that term rotates between five states (Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin),” he said.
Hensley is the third Illinois resident to serve on the national committee board in its 40-plus years of existence. He joins Ken Schultz (Homewood-Flossmoor) and Doug Smith (Woodstock and Naperville North).
“It’s very humbling to be afforded the opportunity to sit in a room with people from across the country and hear what’s going on in their states and at their schools,” Hensley said. “If I can bring one or two or 10 ideas back and make our programs better, it will be time well spent.”
Because of the time commitment needed to serve, Hensley consulted with M-S high school principal Shannon Cheek and the superintendent when the issue was presented, Rick Johnston.
“They were very supportive,’ Hensley said.
That feeling is shared by current superintendent Lindsey Hall.
“It’s wonderful to have a leader who has historically given back to his profession be selected by his peers,” Hall said. “It is a wonderful reflection on him personally and the school district.
“This is about professional growth. To represent Mahomet and the state of Illinois on a national board is a win-win. He will come back with more ideas and experiences he can share.”
Hall doesn’t expect any of Hensley’s responsibilities at M-S will be neglected.