By FRED KRONER
Brendan McHale is no stranger to working with Parkland College athletics.
His association with the school began in 1992 as an athletic trainer.
This week, his duties changed.
On Monday, McHale began his first day as Parkland’s athletic director.
“I used to help in the training room,” McHale said. “This is just a different way to help athletes to be successful.”
McHale first learned about athletic training in a course he took at Parkland. It appealed to him because, “I wanted to stay involved in athletics,” he said.
A four-sport athlete at Bement High School, the Ivesdale native has shifted gears, but still gets to pursue his passion.
The unique challenge for him is starting in the middle of the fall semester.
The school’s nationally ranked volleyball team has already played 35 matches. The nationally ranked men’s soccer team has played 10 matches. The golf team is nearing the end of its fall season.
“I have to hit the ground running and get to know all of the coaches better than I currently do,” McHale said.
One person who has no doubts that McHale is qualified and capable of handing the role is former athletic director Rod Lovett.
“It’s not necessarily normal job progression,” Lovett said. “My recommendation was for someone with leadership and supervisory skills.
“Brendan wasn’t just doing athletic training. He was assigning athletic trainers at Carle and doing administration for some time.”
Lovett quickly learned how many others shared his positive feelings about McHale’s hiring after the announcement was made public.
“I got bombarded by people praising it,” Lovett said. “I got messages from kids I hadn’t heard from in 15 years.
“People were happy it was kept in the family. That was very reassuring.”
From 1992-99, McHale worked in sports medicine with Christie Clinic. In the summer of 1999, he joined the team at Carle.
“For his first seven years at Carle, he continued his hands-on duties as a sports trainer, following up on what he had started with Christie.
“The last 10 years (in that role), I covered all the home events,” McHale said. “There is a lot of crossover with the administration.
“It’s similar to what I did at Carle Sports Medicine, dealing with multiple staff and getting them the tools needed to be successful.”
Occasionally, McHale made road trips.
“He is very aware of the ins and out of how to run an event,” Lovett said. “It will help him in that most of the administrative work in volleyball and soccer is already done.”
McHale, who devoted the last 12 years at Carle to administrative duties, doesn’t find the job at hand to be daunting.
“It seemed like a natural fit for me,” he said. “I’ve not been an athletic director, but I’ve reached out to athletic directors in the area.”
When questions arise, he has an information source close by.
“I can still reach out to Rod,” McHale said. “He said he will make himself available.”
After arriving at Parkland as the baseball coach in 1990, Lovett took over as AD in January of 2000.
Last year, he took on additional duties as director of student life.
When the vacancy was first posted, applicants were sought for the same dual role.
Eventually, the positions were separated, which Lovett thought was the appropriate call.
“That probably only works with someone at Parkland as long as I was,” he said.
McHale hadn’t been actively seeking a career switch, but when the opportunity presented itself, he thought the timing was right.
“I like to think I’m still young, and I’m looking forward to doing something a little different,” McHale said.
“This gives me more direct interaction with coaches.”
Lovett gives two thumbs up to his successor.
“He will do a great job,” Lovett said. “He has the perfect temperament and personality to make it work.”
Mike Trame, a former volleyball coach at Parkland and the current vice-president of student services, was handling the AD duties this fall on an interim basis.
Parkland’s current athletic trainer, Mark Rieger, is supplied by Carle. He has worked with Cobra athletes for five years.
During the past two weeks, McHale was helping to train his replacement, John Flannell, the new supervisor of Carle Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.
McHale and his wife, Karen, have four children, including Jack who is a senior at Mahomet-Seymour and Alex, who is in eighth-grade.
Catherine, 22, is a former Parkland soccer player and Nick, 20, is a junior at the University of Illinois.
The family understands there may be conflicts ahead where dad will miss some of the children’s activities.
“We’re fully signed up for that part of the process,” McHale said. “I have a supportive wife, kids and administration.”
As for his first-day agenda, McHale said, “Show up and get after it.”