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Longtime Franklin AD ready for final act

The Baltimore Sun

Stay in one place long enough, doing the same thing consistently and people start to believe that you'll always be there, just like the concrete.

Jill Myers has been at Franklin for so long as a teacher, coach and athletic director - more than 39 years when the school year ends - that people are having a hard time getting a hold of the notion that she won't be there when the new school year begins next fall.

"People still can't believe that I'm retiring this year," Myers said. "They felt that I would never leave. They thought they'd have to carry me out of here. I said, 'No, that's not going to happen.' But this is all I've wanted to do, work in athletics and teach physical education."

And having done both for one group of kids and their offspring, Myers, 64, who has been the athletic director at Franklin for 21 years, believes it's time to enjoy her life. She felt that way even before she suffered a heart attack in October, but now she knows it's time to relax.

"Even though I've loved everything I've done and everything about the job, I actually don't want to work this hard anymore," Myers said. "That's really the bottom line."

The job of a modern-day high school athletic director can be just as taxing as that of a coach, but with little of the glory. Myers is at the Reisterstown school by 6:45 a.m. and begins inspecting the school's fields to see if they are playable.

During the school day, there are arrangements to be made, such as making sure that officials show up for home games and that buses arrive to send Franklin athletes out for road contests.

On game days, the athletic director makes sure the facility is secure during and after the competition. During the winter, when basketball games and wrestling matches begin later, a diligent athletic director might not see the inside of his or her home before 11 p.m., only to repeat the process the next day.

Add the care and feeding of coaches to all those duties, and mix in keeping track of the eligibility of athletes, along with the comparative anonymity of the job relative to that of a coach, and you have a post that many would run from.

"She is always on top of the subtleties of athletic directing," Franklin principal Dean Terry said. "That is, to make sure that we have trainers on site for all athletic events and that our coaches are trained in the care and prevention of injuries. She's on top of parent permission, of medical [forms] and of residency. You never have to worry about the overall integrity of your program."

Far from being a mere paper pusher, Myers has a legacy at Franklin - where, save for a two-year stint in Colorado and six months at Southwest Academy, she has been since the early days of the Johnson administration - of presenting opportunities and facilitating possibilities.

She has been, in a way, a forward who sets a screen to free the flashy guard to hit the winning basket, a second baseman who hits a grounder to the right side to move a base runner to third or a fullback who picks up a blitzing safety, giving the quarterback the extra second to throw a winning touchdown.

And all at the same northwest Baltimore County school, coaching, at one point, the girls varsity and junior varsity volleyball and basketball teams and the varsity tennis team, while leading and guiding three generations of kids.

"Everyone knows Jill Myers," said Ron Belinko, Baltimore County's coordinator of athletics for high schools. "When you mention Franklin High, you think of her and the enthusiasm and the passion. She's a legend."

Bev Simpson got her start as a sophomore member of Myers' first basketball team in 1964-65. Simpson went off to college and became a physical education teacher and later coach of the Towson girls basketball team.

Simpson has coached the Generals for more than 30 years, in large part because she believes Myers helped, in her own way, to transform how girls thought about themselves when they competed.

"Her legacy is, among other things, as a mentor to a lot of women who at that time were called tomboys," Simpson said. "Now, they're called athletes. She took that and made us feel important and have good self-esteem. We thought, 'I really want to be a phys ed teacher and there's nothing wrong with that.' I still look up to her and I always have."

Myers said the thing that has always made her proud is that the Franklin athletes have represented the school and the athletic program with a sense of honor and decorum.

"To have taught and coached so many people in this community and to see the outstanding citizens that they've become makes me very proud," Myers said.

The Franklin community can demonstrate its appreciation by naming the football stadium, which features a newly unveiled press box and lights, for Jill Myers when the school year opens in the fall.

Such a designation would be a reflection of the concept that if you stay at one place long enough, and do the same thing consistently and well, you can mold minds, shape opinions and change hearts.

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