Pack the bleachers!
New LPHS athletic director calls on community to show up and cheer loudly
John Hannahs was playing pickup basketball a couple months back when he felt a jolt of pain shoot through his leg. He’d ruptured his Achilles tendon, an injury that took him off the court but did not sideline his enthusiasm for community athletics. Shortly afterward, Hannahs was back in action at Community Park applying his polished announcer’s voice to a little league matchup between the Big Sky Royals and the Belgrade Nationals.
Recently, before heading off to another physical therapy session aimed at his injured Achilles, Hannahs took time to discuss his promotion to athletic director for the Big Sky School District.
Hannahs said about a year ago, he approached Superintendent Dustin Shipman and asked, “To have more of a role in our athletic programs.”
The school and district administration obliged, said Hannahs, adding, “It was sort of a combination of our administration being really flexible” and Hannahs’ desire to take local school sports “to that next step as far as the athletic programs go.”
“John is a great fit for the AD position,” wrote Superintendent Shipman in an email from Poland, where he is visiting family. “In addition to being a great teacher, he cares deeply about the experience of student athletes. I think he will be a great addition to the leadership team of the district as he has coached in our school and is familiar with our class C district and will be a great fit with the other ADs of the schools we play.”
Shipman went on: “Here at the district we think it very important that the kids have balance in their lives and extracurricular activities are an important aspect of the education here at Big Sky schools. And this fall is no different. We hope for increasing numbers in our programs and for the participants to leave our programs with a sense of school pride after participating in our programs.”
Hannahs said he will remain in the classroom as a second-grade teacher while pushing himself as an athletics leader. His promotion comes just as his friend and roommate Austin Barth departs for Anaconda, where he’s moved in with his girlfriend and will continue his teaching-coaching career.
In Barth’s place as head basketball coach, Hannahs welcomes Pastor Brian Van Eps, who moves up to take over the LPHS boys’ team, possibly with some of his players from last year's Ophir Middle School team.
Other big changes in the athletic department include a major upgrade for the football stadium.
“Right now, we’re getting power run over to the bleachers and the AV system. That’s exciting,” said Hannahs, who is known for his “Are you ready to rumble”-style introductions at sporting events.
Hannahs said he’s looking forward to, “Finding some creative ways to raise awareness. My big thing I’m going to be taking on is increased awareness and attendance at our athletic events. And not just parents and students. I’d like to pack the bleachers. Let’s make it standing room only.”
For now, during the summer doldrums leading up to the first athletic events of the new school year, Hannahs said he’s, “Getting the gym schedules together to make sure every team is happy.”
For volleyball in the fall, Hannahs said he will be working with coaches Missy Botha and Beth Billington. And good news about girls’ basketball—it looks like Head Coach Ausha Cole, who led her Big Horns on an impressive post-season run last season, is also returning.
Whether or not Hannahs winds up back on the sideline as assistant coach of the boys’ hoops team is to be determined.
Other items of business on the new AD’s desk are preparing for the K-4 intramural basketball program, which offers play after school and games on the weekends. Plus, look for regular Wednesday evening pickup basketball games—just like the one where Hannahs blew out his Achilles.