AD job at Eden Christian leads Latrobe grad back to Western Pennsylvania

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Tuesday, August 4, 2020 | 6:16 PM


Mark Ackerman’s journey both in and out of sports the past three decades has brought him home to western Pennsylvania.

The 1987 Latrobe graduate continues to settle into his role as the new athletic director at Eden Christian Academy. His career as an athletic administrator and a coach for both football and track and field has taken him to schools in Texas, Florida and, most recently, Georgia, his home for the past six years.

“I am really excited to become more involved at Eden and meet everyone,” said Ackerman, who has been getting up to speed the past several weeks with Zoom meetings and communication with staff members through phone and email since being hired in late June.

“It is a really good situation,” he said. “My wife and I, when we first heard about the possible opportunity, went online to check everything out, and Eden really aligns with where we are in the ministry we desire to do. Eden has a strong base in faith and is strong educationally. It also prides itself in creating athletes who are well-rounded, not only in their sports but in life, too.”

Eden made its mark several times during the 2019-20 fall and winter sports seasons, highlighted by the boys cross country team finishing third at the WPIAL Class A cross country championships last October and qualifying for states. The boys basketball team, under the direction of Todd Aiken, advanced to the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals in February.

Ackerman said he has enjoyed learning more about his new position from Steve Good, who is stepping down as the Eden athletic director for family reasons.

“Man, I am just impressed with Steve and his knowledge and his love he has for Eden,” Ackerman said. “He was also a teacher, the dean of students and was coaching golf and baseball. He was juggling all kinds of stuff.”

Ackerman’s arrival at Eden coincides with an unprecedented time for high school sports, not only in the WPIAL but throughout the state and country amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He experienced the disappointment that arose from the cancellation of spring sports, and he understands the uncertainty as the fall seasons get closer.

“Everybody is finding out that when everybody has a plan and is ready to roll, things can change and change fast,” Ackerman said. “Eden is doing a great job with multiple plans so that we’re ready for whatever happens and what the WPIAL and PIAA allows. We want to make sure we are doing what’s best for the kids. That’s every school’s goal.”

Along with the eagerness to get going at Eden, Ackerman, his wife, Jenny, twin daughters Julia and Rebecca, and son David, are looking forward to being close to family members on a more regular basis.

“We’re looking to get settled up there,” Ackerman said. “Our daughters are itching to play some volleyball.”

Ackerman comes to Eden after six years as the athletic director and head football and track and field coach at Unity Christian School in Rome, Ga.

Before coming to Unity in 2014, Ackerman held the same positions for four years at Southwest Florida Christian Academy in Fort Myers, Fla.

“We’re really excited to have Mark and the experience he brings, not only from a coaching perspective but also with the good things he’s done overall with other athletic programs,” said Aiken, who also serves as Eden’s Upper School principal.

“We also recognized and appreciate his like-mindedness with the mission at Eden. We believe athletics are important, but we see other purposes beyond the wins and losses, and he brings many positive goals in coming to Eden and coming back to Pittsburgh.”

While Ackerman won’t be able to bring his run-and-shoot style of football coaching to Eden, as the school doesn’t have a football team, he hopes to offer his track and field coaching experience to the Warriors teams in the spring.

Ackerman’s sports journey is grounded in experiences in and around Latrobe.

He played football and jumped for the track team at Latrobe before continuing in track and field at Edinboro.

After a year at Edinboro, Ackerman got the opportunity to pursue college football at North Carolina’s Gardner-Webb University, at the time a member of NAIA Division I.

“I was thankful that Gardner-Webb gave me a shot,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman, a wide receiver, played in the 1992 NAIA Division I title game — The Champion Bowl — against Central State (Ohio). The Runnin’ Bulldogs finished as the national runner-up with a 19-16 loss. The team went 12-2, won a South Atlantic Conference title and outscored opponents, 42.7 to 17.4

Two years earlier, Ackerman led Gardner-Webb in receiving.

“I loved all my experiences as an athlete,” Ackerman said. “I really grew as a person and in my faith during that time.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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