Shannon Gerrety donned a familiar blue Blaine football shirt on Monday, but instead of shorts and sneakers, the new activities director wore khaki slacks and brown dress shoes.
He carried a whistle in his pocket instead of around his neck and watched football practice from afar rather than within. A 1984 Blaine graduate and former linebacker, Gerrety returned to the football program in 1985 as an assistant coach. He became head coach in 2002.
Accepting the school’s activities director position in June came with a price. District 11 does not allow administrators to coach, forcing Gerrety out of the program he helped build.
“First time in 28 years I haven’t done this,” Gerrety lamented as players ran between the blasts of whistles. “That’s no fun.
“I suppose it’s something I’ll feel when my kids leave for college. You helped build a foundation for them, and now it’s their turn to do their thing, and you have to sit back and watch. But I’m still at a school that I love, one that I have incredible history with.”
Gerrety handled myriad duties on Monday, assisting an athlete needing to update an expired physical, checking which stadium scoreboard lights needed replacement and helping volleyball coach Celeste Gorman track down misplaced equipment.
Walking past the trainer’s office, Gerrety ran into Joe Robel. Inside he saw Kunle Ayinde. Both varsity football veterans received a handshake and hug and Gerrety’s wishes for a great season.
“He was all about protecting the tradition,” Robel said. “He really was big on going out and grinding with what we had.”
“He was always passionate about whatever he did,” Ayinde said. “He led with his mind and his heart and made good decisions for us players.”
The decision to leave coaching, Gerrety said, was his most difficult. He looks forward to finding more balance in his life but still values the core elements of being an educator. “You get into coaching to build relationships with kids,” Gerrety said. “I don’t ever want to lose that.”