Steve McHale is ready to hit the ground running.
McHale, who was named the new athletic director at Ocoee High School on July 23, sat in his new office on Oviedo’s campus with boxes to unpack, bills to pay and chores to accomplish.
While the former Assistant Athletic Director for the past three years at Dr. Phillips High School has plenty on his to-do list, McHale — the replacement for Scott Drabczyk, who departed for Father Lopez Catholic High School on July 15 — is excited about the challenge ahead.
After 12 years of working for schools in the area as an assistant athletic director or some other capacity on the administrative side of the athletics department, Ocoee Principal William Floyd’s hiring of McHale has made the New Orleans native the head man for a program at last.
“This is my first time as an (athletic director) so, you know, it’s been a long time waiting,” McHale said. “They’re (the coaches and staff at Ocoee) doing everything the right way and they’re doing it with hard work and integrity. …
“You can just see a lot of growth … building that tradition.”
Equally excited, it would seem, is Floyd about his newest administrator on campus.
“He (McHale) comes with a sterling reputation from the athletic community … I did not hear a single negative about him,” Floyd said. “Couple that with the many years of experience and … he was the obvious choice.”
Though McHale stood apart as the right choice to lead the Knights, Floyd did say that there were other quality candidates who showed interest and applied — another sign of the growth the programs have experience in recent years.
“I think it (the interest in the opening) says a lot because although we haven’t always had the best win-loss record, some of the coaches we’ve hired here over the past few years are top-notch coaches,” Floyd said. “So we’re an up-and-coming program.”
Of course, the ascending nature of the programs at the high school was a strong factor for McHale in his decision to pursue — and eventually accept — the position, but so too was the town of Ocoee.
“I love small towns — I’m a small town, community guy,” McHale said.
That small-town atmosphere that McHale sought out in the Ocoee position is something that, among the list of other things he will need to do in the coming weeks, he would like to build upon. Bridging the gap between the community and the school is a top priority, he says.
“We talked a lot about getting a little more community involvement … just making this the place to be on Friday nights or Monday and Tuesday nights when we have a basketball or baseball (game),” McHale said.
Though making the move from assistant to athletic director is a logical step forward in his career path, McHale said the decision was not without some difficulty. McHale, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and has previously worked at Edgewater High School in Orlando and East River High School in East Orange County, said he made many meaningful connections during his three years at Dr. Phillips.
“It wasn’t an easy thing to walk away from … I really enjoyed myself there,” McHale said. “The hardest part was to leave the students — I’ve built a lot of rapport with the students.”
Given that he will didn’t have to move far for his new post — and that his wife is a Dr. Phillips alumna — McHale expects he will still be able to keep tabs on, and root for, the Panthers.
Just so long, he said with a laugh, as they’re not playing the Knights.
“When they’re not playing Ocoee High School I’ll be watching what they’re doing, I’ll be keeping up with them,” McHale said.