Rush retires after 16 years as Pine River athletic director

LEROY -- It’s been a fun 16 years as athletic director at Pine River for Roger Rush.

But the long-time Bucks’ administrator has now officially retired after a rewarding tenure in the Pine River School District.

Rush’ last day as AD was May 31. His successor now on the job is Aaron Schab.

Rush has also had assistant principal duties while at Pine River.

Rush grew up in Hastings and would be involved in education and athletics for 34 years, including a long tenure in collegiate sports in Minnesota. He met his wife Vicki while attending Central Michigan University. He retires after more than 30 total years in education.

When he took the job at Pine River, Rush was the fourth AD in five years and was able to bring stability to the program.

“We’ve seen some good things happen,” he said. “We have a lot of good people working in the program.”

Rush recalls that when he came to Pine River, the middle school program consisted of boys and girls basketball.

There are now middle school programs in other sports.

“The middle school program has actually blossomed in terms of offerings, which has only benefited the high school programs and has contributed to the success that we’ve had at the high school level because we’ve had a good feeder program,” Rush said. “We’ve had really good head coaches who have been leaders for their entire programs.”

Facility additions to the athletic program since Rush came have included the soccer fields, along with upgrades to other facilities. The middle school and its new complex was just done as soon as Rush arrived.

“Soccer was elevated to the varsity level once I got here,” he said.

A major change during Rush’s tenure was the switch in sports seasons, primarily the switching of girls volleyball now in the fall and girls basketball, now in the winter. But it’s a change everyone has seemed to make the adjustment over the year Rush noted. The Highland is among the conferences that still keep girls and boys basketball on separate nights.

“The changes of seasons was an emotional venue because it was a change. It’s one of our minor challenges. We have far bigger challenges in high school athletics today than the seasons.

Financing athletic programs has been among the challenges.

“The growth of non-school sports is going to be a challenge to high school sports,” he said. “Nonschool sports, it costs money and automatically eliminates kids. Typically AAU teams don’t want your average player but only your top two or three. They’re not welcomed to all comers like high school sports are. That influx of nonschool sports will be a challenge to high school sports at times.”

Another challenge, Rush said, is the decline of on-staff coaches although Pine River has had very few, if any nonstaff coaches, especially on the varsity level.

“I’m very supportive of onstaff coaches,” Rush said.

“Sports specialization too is a challenge,” he said. “In a small school like ours, it’s a challenge to get kids to participate in three sports compared to thinking they should only compete in one sport for that elusive college scholarship. We have to be cautious on that.”

Schab has been teaching in the district the past 10 years, Rush said, and is currently teaching sixth in the middle school. He has coached high school football and baseball and in some middle school sports.

“He will run a program of integrity and sportsmanship,” Rush said. “He will do a great job.”

As for Rush, 56, who spent many nights at the school during sports events, future possibilities are wide open.

“Right now, Vicki is still working out at Luther Elementary as a para pro,” he said. “She’ll work for awhile and I’ll be at the house doing who knows what. I have no immediate plans. A lot of people have things scripted out. I have no script for this.

“As you can tell by my history, it’s been either this or college coaching. All of those types of jobs, including this one, have been what you refer to first and second shift jobs...for years, not just the past 16 years, it seems that the jobs I have landed have been for a longer duration.”

Not having that commitment, Rush said, is something he’ll look forward to in retirement.

“Our immediate plans are to be right where we’re at,” he said.

Rush said he’ll miss the students.

“They make you smile on the inside every day, just because they’re kids,” he said. “I’ll miss the competition, what I would call the positive fun and the positive emotion of that competition. I’ll miss seeing people at athletic events, not only our folks, but I’ve gotten to know folks from all of the various communities when they come here. That’s fun for me, I’ve enjoyed that.”

Rush will also miss his affiliations with the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) and the Michigan Interscholastics Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA).

“I appreciate everything our coaches have done,” Rush said, “and the support you get from the community members itself and all of our volunteers. It’s very good support. We have a number of parents always involved in helping to support the program. We have a very strong and active boosters club. They’ve all worked very hard. It’s never been the effort of one person in this athletic office that makes thing go. It’s been the coaches doing tons of things well above beyond the call of duty.

“Those folks you have to say thanks to because they’ve given so much time and money to make sure the kids have a good opportunity. It’s such a huge endeavor within a community. What can bring together a community more than a quality-run, quality-based and successful sports program. That’s what it’s there for and the kids appreciate that support.”

But Rush has one person in particular he wants to thank.

“That goes to Mrs. Rush,” he said. “When we moved here 16 years ago, my youngest was a kindergartner and my oldest was a fourth-grader. She raised the kids by herself because night after night, her husband, you know where he was at four out of five nights. He was at school supporting someone else’s kids. Vicki took on those duties with never a complaint. During the whole time and until the kids were older, she’d be a sub teacher. As they got older, she emerged herself here. She would come in and be my athletic secretary throughout the year. She was our ticket taker at all venues as the kids got older.

“There’s no way you can survive as an athletic director and not have a supportive spouse. It is goofy hours. If you don’t have support from home you don’t last a year.”