After 17 years, Jon Hatch steps down as Gloucester's AD

After all these years, Jon Hatch still has his Commercial Driver's License. After all, part of being a high school athletic director is wearing different hats.

"I've driven the bus, I've sold tickets, I've worked in concessions, whatever needs to be done," Hatch said. "You think you understand what it takes to be an athletic director until you get in the chair. You have to grind.

"I sat down a couple of years ago and made a job description. I think I came up with three pages of job responsibilities. It's things you have to do day in and day out."

Not that he's complaining. But after 27 years at Gloucester High, the last 17 as the Dukes' AD, Hatch is ready for retirement. He's not sure what comes next, though the 7 1/2 acres on which his home is built require a lot of attention.

Hatch, who is 61 but could easily pass for 45, leaves as one of the longest-tenured athletic directors the Peninsula District has ever had. It's hard to imagine anyone held the job longer than Leonard Thomas, who was Kecoughtan's AD for 24 years before retiring in 2007.

Among the other long-timers: Trish Mitchell was athletic director at Hampton for 16 years (1985-2001); and Warwick's Marilyn Watkins and Woodside's Al Dorner retired in 2011 after 14 and 12 years, respectively.

"He's what I'd call a mainstay in the Peninsula District," Heritage AD Dwayne Peters said. "Whoever replaces him will have some big shoes to fill."

Nobody knows that more than Gloucester principal Tony Beverage.

"John is probably the most under appreciated man in Gloucester," he said. "He was the one answering calls at 7 a.m. after a coach set the alarm off at school. He was the one marking the fields when there was nobody else to do it.

"He always went above and beyond. And I don't think we'll realize everything he did for us until he leaves."

Since coming to Gloucester in 1986, Hatch has taught, coached and administered. For four seasons, he coached both the girls and boys basketball teams. That was doable then because the Dukes were a Group AA program, and the girls played in the fall.

When Gloucester moved up to Triple-A in 1990, Hatch had to make a choice. He gave up coaching the boys team, which had gone 21-3 the previous season, and led the girls for another 12 years.

The Dukes won 271 games in his 16 seasons. They made the AA state semifinals in 1989 along with back-to-back PD championships in 1998 and '99. He also coached the girls tennis team.

Hatch's first assistant coach was Red Lindsay, who was his right hand man with the girls' basketball team for eight years.

"I learned so much from coaching with him," said Lindsay, who has won 324 games as the Dukes' softball coach the last 19 seasons. "I took in everything he did at practice and translated it to softball the best I could. He taught me so much about teaching, coaching and life in general."

Hatch's coaching experience helped him understand coaches' needs.

"He's always there to lend an ear," Dukes baseball coach Gus Morande. "Jon is very easy to talk to and receptive to things."

Much of what turned out to be Hatch's final year on the job was spent preparing for the VHSL's new reclassification. Starting this fall, Gloucester will be in Conference 10 along with PD brothers Hampton, Menchville and Warwick and three schools from Chesapeake.

It's going to be a strange new world in high school athletics. But Hatch says that wasn't a reason he decided to step down.

"This year, all the ADs in the state have been putting the operational manuals together for our conferences," he said. "We lined up the scheduling and formats, so maybe I should have retired last year."

But seriously …

"No," he said. "That didn't really resonate either way."

So what is Hatch's reason for stepping down? Simply, he feels it's the perfect time.

"You know when you're getting there," he said. "I'm at a good stage in my life. I'm young enough to enjoy retirement and I've put in 37 years. I'm going to take some time, clear my head, and move on to other things. It could be travel.

"I don't rule out returning to coaching in some capacity, though I'm not going to pursue it directly. I'll stay active. Where I live, actually, I could work around that place every day and become a recluse."

Another plus to retiring: His three children — Jessica, Joanna and Jack — all live in the area. And less time rescheduling rainouts and closing the gym after night games means more time with Jean.

"Many a night, she would sit with me as I ate dinner between 10:30 and 11," Hatch said. "That's how you last this long in athletics. You've got to have good support at home."

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