By Kevin Eickman
This past Friday was supposed to be the opening day of spring sports for Milford High School athletics. As most readers are aware, Mother Nature can be rather fickle this time of year when it comes to providing adequate playing conditions. That was the case on opening day as both baseball and girls’ soccer were postponed due to poor weather conditions. We took the opportunity to catch up with Buccaneers athletic director Ryan Winkleblech to reflect on his four years at the helm of the Milford athletic department.
One of the first thoughts that came to mind had to do with the events that unfolded on Friday, in rapid fashion. While canceling the baseball game scheduled against Hodgson Vocational Tech was pretty easy due to field conditions, soccer presented a different set of circumstances. “With the high winds anticipated and even the possibility of thunder storms we had to make a decision on whether to play or not,” Winkleblech said. “When it comes down to it, we want to have the safest and best conditions we can.”
Decisions like that are ones that A.D.’s are constantly making, it is akin to juggling three balls and balancing something on your head at the same time. There is always something to do and many things to be considered. “While it’s easy to say yeah, cancel the game, every time we make a decision like that it has ramifications down the line. Can we make it up? When can we make it up? Should we make it up?,” Winkleblech stated.
Another part of the job that has evolved for Winkleblech is a bit of a detachment from the student athletes themselves. “When I first started this job I had coached a great many of the athletes playing. They knew me not only from the playing field, but from teaching in the classroom as well,” commented Winkleblech. “Now there is a bit less familiarity and things are a bit different, but the reward of helping our students is still there.”
Without coaching, nothing happens and Milford has been blessed with an abundance of coaching talent of late. One of the things that Winkleblech looks for in a coach is the same dedication and commitment that he has. “Anyone who thinks that these coaches are in if for the money, doesn’t understand what makes them tick,” said Winkleblech. “Just like all the other educators in Milford our coaches give so much of themselves. It is a passion with them that goes beyond the field. We are not just here to win games, we are here to educate. That is the mission of Milford Athletics.”
In a job that can best be described as 24 hours and 7 days a week, one would be left to wonder why a person would want to do a job like this. When posed the question Winkleblech at first answered with a joke and a chuckle, but then got down to the truth of it all. “Probably because I’m a little crazy [laughter on his part]. Seriously though, it’s great to be a part of all the great things we have going on right now. To see the kids excel and to see the community respond, it really helps bring me a since of pride to be a part of it,” he said.
When asked about the support of the community, it was obvious they play a huge role. “We have people stepping up all the time to help us. Sometimes it’s about money or sometimes it’s just about being able to lend a hand,” Winkleblech said. “This is a great community and it’s growing and very inclusive. I believe that our school reflects the community and I see big things for the future.”
One item on the horizon for Milford is the elevation to Division I in those sports that have two divisions. Field Hockey, Football, Soccer and Wrestling will all be effected. Milford will be moving to the Henlopen North, which will raise the bar competition wise.
“When you go from being one of the bigger teams in D-II to one of the smallest in D-I it’s a big step. It gets to be a numbers game and in some sports depth can be an issue,” Winkleblech stated. “At the end of the day we have competed at that level before and I believe we will do well there this time. High School sports will always have peaks and valleys, but we are prepared for it.”
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