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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 5, 2012

Guilderland AD position filled by familiar face
By Jordan J. Michael

GUILDERLAND –– Regan Johnson has known Wayne Bertrand for practically his entire life, so when Bertrand stepped down as Guilderland’s athletic director, it was only fitting for Johnson to take over.

Bertrand is vacationing in Florida as Johnson, 42, turns Bertrand’s old office into his new headquarters. On Friday, furniture was moved and new memorabilia hung about. This had been Bertrand’s place of work for about 12 years, but all that is history.

“It’s a little weird, even kind of sad that he’s not here,” said Johnson. Bertrand had coached and taught Johnson at Ballston Spa High School. “We’ve texted each other numerous times already and we’ll continue to keep in contact. He’s a great resource and I think the world of him,” he said.

Johnson had been Bertrand’s right-hand man ever since being appointed Guilderland’s assistant athletic director in February 2007. Both men grew up in Ballston Spa and their families know each other extensively. Johnson is the oldest of three brothers and Bertrand is the oldest of four.

“I’ve known Wayne since I was a baby,” Johnson said. “Out of all those seven boys, Wayne is the only one who didn’t wrestle. My father, Vince, coached Wayne’s younger brothers. We go back pretty far. There’s a lot of history between our families.”

Johnson told The Enterprise that he’d be lying if he said that Bertrand had little to do with him being his replacement. “Sure, he had a lot to do with me sitting here right now,” he said. “My new job has much in common with my old one, but there’s much more to be juggled. It’s exciting.”

Johnson was appointed to the post, which pays $103,000 annually, by a unanimous vote of the school board last month. The board’s president thanked Bertrand for being a mentor to Johnson.

Written on Johnson’s office white board were the numbers 8,722 and 7,610, which signifies a bet that Johnson and Bertrand have going on how much the football reconditioning bill will cost. Every year, Guilderland sends out helmets and shoulder pads to be reconditioned for the upcoming football season in the fall. All 12 Suburban Council schools throw in to the reconditioning costs as one.

Bertrand bet higher than Johnson.

“I think Wayne bet too high, but this isn’t The Price Is Right, so he’s allowed to be over,” said Johnson. “It’s whoever is closer. It’s good that every school threw in as one because we’re going to be saving a lot of money.”

As is the case with any school, budgets are still tight this year. Now isn’t the time to be adding anything new to Guilderland’s athletic program. Instead, fund-raising is more important than ever.

“Men’s Warehouse Fundraiser” was also written down on Johnson’s white board. Recently, he was getting fitted for a tux for his brother’s wedding, and started talking to a salesperson. Turns out that Men’s Warehouse does fund-raisers for school programs.

“If you go and get a tux, Guilderland gets $5,” Johnson said. “Tons of kids go to the prom, so it makes sense. That’s an easy one, and not a lot of work on our part. Everybody wins.”

Learning from defeat

Johnson is a competitive man, once a three-sport athlete –– in football, wrestling, and baseball. He wrestled all four years at the State University of New York College at Brockport while earning a degree in physical education.

Johnson said that winning is important, but not most essential.

“It’s most important to perform to your best,” said Johnson, who has a master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and an advanced certificate from The College of Saint Rose. “If you have the effort and the attitude, then the outcome will take care of itself,” he said.

During his freshman year at SUNY Brockport, Johnson’s wrestling coach had told him to compete in a tournament at Slippery Rock, Pa. even though Johnson was violently sick from the flu. Johnson said he was “assaulted” by an opponent from Virginia Tech in the first match.

“I learned more about myself through defeats than I ever did winning,” said Johnson. On the way to Slippery Rock, the team had to pull over three separate times so Johnson could throw up.

“I didn’t expect to be wrestling, but Coach told me I had to do it, saying, ‘There will come a time in your life when you have to perform when you don’t feel the best. You’ll have family and friends looking to you for support, so get up and perform and you’ll do fine,’” Johnson said. “I still think of that moment.”

Bertrand also attended SUNY Brockport as an undergrad.

“He’s the older brother I never had,” Johnson said. “He told me to just be myself. Wayne doesn’t want to make it feel like he’s standing over me, but we both know he’ll be there if I need anything.”

Johnson started student teaching at Guilderland in 1996 and was the head wrestling coach from 1997 to 2007.

“Wayne is very knowledgeable, and a well respected guy in this state,” Johnson said. Bertrand would tell Johnson, “If you ever learned anything from me..and then fill in the blank, but it would be like five or six things. Just be yourself and play within yourself. Take your job seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.”

New structure

To help deal with budget constraints, the assistant position for health, physical education, and interscholastic athletics has been completely cut. But Guilderland has added two athletic faculty managers and an athletic event coordinator to help lighten Johnson’s heavy workload. Two years ago, Johnson’s assistant position was cut back some, so he started teaching at Altamont Elementary School.

He’s had a few students come into the athletic office this week, but he’ll miss the constant interaction with kids that he got from teaching. The Guilderland seniors and juniors are the last names and faces Johnson knows until his former Altamont students grow up.

“Back to being a full-time administrator,” Johnson said. “I’ll miss the kids.”

Johnson said that Bertrand and he together were 1.7 full-time equivalents, but now that 1.7 has been merged into 1. He prefers the old model of athletic director and assistant, but understands that Guilderland can’t afford to fund both positions.

“I think the district realized that I need a little help,” Johnson said. “I have three kids and a wife at home, so I can’t spend every waking second here. Those three other positions are to make sure that nothing gets missed.”

Moving forward

The biggest chunk of the education business is in human beings.

“I can’t control the budget, but I can control moving forward with athletics, phys. ed., and health,” said Johnson. “Everything’s in place, so now I just do my job.”

After Johnson was finished with his student teaching at Guilderland, he received two job offers –– one in Section II and another in Section IX. The Section IX position involved coaching a state-caliber wrestling program. Guilderland’s wrestling program, in Section II, at the time had seen better days.

People we’re telling Johnson that Guilderland couldn’t compete with the other teams, which was insulting. Johnson could have easily taken the job in Section IX, but he liked the people he had worked with at Guilderland.

Eventually, Bertrand came along. He started hiring a great staff. Now, Guilderland has a very successful athletic program.

Johnson doesn’t want to let Bertrand down, or anyone else. Some objectives will get missed, but that’s not going to sit well.

“No excuses,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to miss a beat.”

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