BY JEFF FALK
It’s funny how where we stand affects the way things appear.
From the outside looking in, Dick Eschenmann seems to the poster child for upheaval and disorganization within the Annville-Cleona athletic department. But in fact, Eschenmann has been a stabilizing force and calming influence for the Little Dutchmen as they navigate through unprecedented change.
If you were told that Escheneman is currently in his fourth stint as the interim athletic director at Annville-Cleona, what would it lead you to believe?
But that’s exactly where Eschenmann and the Little Dutchmen are right now. All four times that the former athletic director has been summoned to fill in for the current AD, Eschenmann has answered the bell.
“I spent 37 years in the district,” said Eschenmann, “My kids went through the district. My grandchildren are currently in the district. There’s loyalty there. If they have a need and I can help with it, I’ll say, ‘Yes.'”
Eschenmann is currently filling in for former AD Karen Evans. Evans became an assistant principal when principal Dale Reimanm, himself a past athletic director, left A-C to take a similar position at Hershey High.
Evans is on her way to Manheim Township, where she will fill an assistant principal position that is not directly related to athletics.
“There are times when change is good,” said Eschenmann. “If one person does one thing too long, it’s not good. I do not believe the change-over in the athletic director at Annville-Cleona has damaged the athletic program. I can’t say we’re suffering because people have moved on. The coaches and kids continue to do what they do.”
“It was a very difficult decision to leave,” said Evans. “The faculty, the staff and the kids are wonderful. Like any change, leaving for the unknown is a little scary. I’ve had a fantastic run at Annville-Cleona. We’ve sent teams to states for three years in-a-row. I’m really going to miss the people here.”
Evans’ final day at Annville-Cleona is scheduled to be October 12th, and the Little Dutchmen could very well have a new, permanent athletic director in place by then. The A-C administration is believed to be currently in the process of interviewing for one.
Eschenmann’s ‘final’ day – his fifth – is slated to be October 4th. What seems to be in question is whether or not it will be Eschenmann’s last ‘final’ day.
“Since I retired, I’ve been serving as the interim athletic director when someone moves on or moves up,” said Eschenmann. “When I stepped in in August it was because Dr. Reimann was moving out.
“There’s been turnover,” Eschenmann continued. “I would hope the next person in stays a long time. But that’s sort of out of our control. I have a problem with the the word ‘stability’. But I’d like to see someone do this long-term.”
“The circumstances for me was taking another step in my career,” said Evans. “And it provided me with a chance to spend more time with my family. The opportunity came up and it was the best for my family. I love sports.
“I was very up-front with them (A-C administrators),” Evans added. “They know why and they know when. It’s not like I’m trying to get away from anything. I just don’t think I can do the job (A-C AD) justice.”
“I think it runs very smoothly,” said Eschenmann. “We have a remarkable athletic secretary (Sue Early) who’s been here three of the four times I’ve come back. And we worked very well together when I was the (permanent) athletic director. She’s provided consistency, the glue that holds it together.
“For me, they (Early, the coaches and the student-athletes) deserve the credit,” added Eschenmann. “You’d have to ask the parents what they think. But I can step back in and things keep going smoothly.”
“I see a lot of strengths with the athletic program,” said Evans. “We have some veteran coaches and we have some new coaches. It’s a good mix. Our sports programs are hanging on, with the changes that are going on with field hockey and girls’ soccer. I see an awful lot of strengths.”
Eschenmann spent 30 years in the Annville-Cleona school district teaching seventh-grade social studies. He founded both the varsity and junior-high wrestling programs for the Little Dutchmen, in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“In the short term, my calendar won’t permit that,” said Eschenmann to the possibility of another interim stint. “Another thing I do is the marching arts. I run a national championship. But I’ve learned to never say never. Doing that and doing this is very similar. Here you move schedules, athletes, referees and teams around.
“It’s something I like to do,” Eschenmann concluded. “I’m a linear thinker. Does any of it get to you after a while? Yes. But I haven’t gotten to the point where I say ‘No.'”