AKRON – Gina Hierlmeier knows very well the value of high school athletics.
She’s seen it from the side of being a successful student-athlete and then also as a very successful prep coach.
So when the opportunity presented itself to have an even bigger impact as a high school athletic director she decided to pursue it.
Hierlmeier was approved Monday night as the new athletic director at Tippecanoe Valley High School. She will replace Duane Burkhart, who is retiring at the end of the current school year after 35 years at Valley, including the last 24 as the athletic director.
“It’s such an honor for me to be the new athletic director at Tippecanoe Valley,” said Hierlmeier. “They have a great tradition with their athletic programs and Duane has done an outstanding job.
“I just want to go in there and continue to build off what Duane has done. I just want to be supportive of all of the student athletes and coaches at Valley and work together for everyone to be as successful as they can be.”
Hierlmeier stepped away from being a varsity head coach after spending the 2015-16 season as the girls basketball coach at Mishawaka Marian High School. She has been teaching social studies and also serving as a girls basketball varsity assistant coach at John Glenn High School since 2016.
Hierlmeier, who played three sports at Wabash High School, says that the decision was not an easy one to leave Glenn and leave coaching for good.
“It was hard,” noted Hierlmeier. “I have a great relationship at Glenn. I coached the eighth grade team there this past season. It was a tough decision to step down as a head coach two years ago, but I was focusing on schooling (pursuing her second master’s degree).
“The Valley job came open and it just seemed like all the pieces to the puzzle fit together. It is an opportunity for me to impact even more kids. It’s also closer to home (Wabash) where most of my family still lives.”
Hierlmeier played basketball, volleyball and softball before graduating from Wabash High School in 2000. She then played one season of basketball at Tri-State University (now Trine University).
“I remember playing against Tippecannoe Valley when I was in high school,” remarked Hierlmeier.
Hierlmeier started her coaching career at West Central High School in Francesville in 2006. She had a very strong run there for six seasons, going 94-44 and winning four sectional championships. She then spent three seasons at Culver Community High School from 2012-15, guiding the Cavaliers to a 45-20 mark. Hierlmeier then was at Marian for one season in 2015-16 as the Knights went 8-15. She also spent five years as the head volleyball coach at West Central.
“I think that all of the coaching experiences that I have had at four different schools really helps me as far as becoming an AD,” commented Hierlmeier. “I learned a lot starting so young (24) at West Central. My first AD was Chuck Evans there and he was just great.
“I’ve seen a lot of different ways of doing things as a coach and that’s a big plus.”
Hierlmeier, who is 36, and her husband, Grant, have a daughter, Andie, who is three and a half.
“High school athletics teaches life lessons,” said Hierlmeier. “You learn about hard work and creating goals, and working with coaches and teammates to be successful.”
“We want to win at Valley. We want to compete. Both of those things are important. But the goal is to provide our student athletes with the best experience that we can and give them the best opportunity that we can to be successful in the classroom and on the playing field.”
Hierlmeier, whose official start date is July 1, plans to hit the ground running at Valley.
“I plan to be present at Valley as much as I can the rest of the school year,” noted Hierlmeier. “I want to get going as much as I can as soon as I can to be ahead of the game. My goal is to sit down with every head coach before the summer starts.
“I want to be there to support the coaches. I’ve been there on their side and I want us to work together for the benefit of all of our athletes at Valley.”