Adam Hertz recently returned to the profession he was introduced to in college, one that saw him filling in at McDaniel College before being asked to stay for good as its director of athletics.
Hertz spent 19 years as AD at Swarthmore College before switching careers and joining a consulting firm in Philadelphia. He came to the Hill in March when former McDaniel President Roger Casey reached out to see if he would fill in as the Green Terror’s interim AD (Paul Moyer departed in March after a 10-year run).
In 10 weeks as interim AD, Hertz led McDaniel’s 24-sport department in a return to competition through COVID-19 protocols. He guided the Terror’s 10 spring sports through their competition schedule and navigated each team through weekly testing.
The Times caught up with Hertz to discuss what led him to McDaniel, and how much he’s looking forward to leading the Green Terror’s athletics program into a post-pandemic future.
When did you first become interested in getting into the field of athletic administration?
It was accidental, really. While a student at the University of Redlands (in California), I was asked to help start a women’s soccer club, as there was no varsity program there at the time. I was immediately hooked on coaching and the administrative duties that came with it and found myself involved in coaching regardless of where I was or what I was doing with my career. I don’t think I had realized that there were career opportunities until that point! Sport has been such an integral part of my life and I think there is such value in the athletics experience that it made sense to follow my passion into athletics administration.
What made you want to get back into it after working with a consulting firm?
Again, it wasn’t really something I was actively seeking. President [Roger] Casey called me and asked me to come down for the spring and I fully anticipated only being on the Hill for a few months. Once I got here though, I realized how much I miss the campus experience. Couple that with the instant camaraderie I felt with people on campus, and it was a pretty easy decision when they asked me to stay.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
The absolute biggest challenge was figuring out how to exist in the world of college athletics when there was no college athletics. Figuring out creative and effective ways to keep students and coaches engaged when neither were on campus. The emotional toll that the loss of the ability to follow our passion, from coaches to students, to alumni, to parents, was enormous. And, determining and executing protocols to return to practice/play was also a huge challenge. That we were able to get through the entire spring without having to postpone or cancel a single game is a tribute to the commitment that everyone made to the process.
What’s the toughest part of being a college athletic director?
I don’t know that there are any “tough” parts, but I do think that the AD job is unique in that they need to have a level of expertise in just about every level of college administration. From admissions and financial aid, to alumni engagement and advancement, to student and academic affairs, to health and wellness. There are also a lot of things that I think ADs worry about. The obvious financial challenges that we face. We worry about being able to compete with salaries, facilities, staffing. We consider ourselves surrogate parents to the student athletes, so worry about their emotional and physical well-being, and how whether we can effectively help them balance not only their rigorous athletics experience, but their academic and social experiences on campus, as well. There’s also the challenge of the ever-increasing work demands of our coaches and how we promote and manage balance in their lives (and ours), as well.
How important do you feel physical education is to a college curriculum?
I think it’s most essential at youth levels to teach the importance of nutrition, physical fitness, and mental wellness. The earlier we espouse these values, the better the chance that our children grow up with physical activity as part their daily lives. A robust offering of fitness, activity, and wellness offering on campus should help students continue to incorporate that into their lives. Failing that, it is critical that we teach students the value the healthy mind and body. Mens sane in corpore sano.
How excited are you to lead McDaniel’s athletics program back to normalcy?
I am very appreciative of the opportunity and look forward to continuing to work with a great team of coaches, campus administrators, alumni, and students as we all make our way back from this historic period.