In the midst of challenges, Don Holl settling in as Gateway’s athletic director

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Sunday, May 17, 2020 | 7:22 PM


Don Holl’s first official day as Gateway’s new athletic director was March 13.

It also was the day Gov. Tom Wolf announced all schools in the state would close temporarily and all school-related activities suspended as part of the early response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The state made that ruling permanent for the rest of the academic year a couple of weeks later.

It wasn’t the start Holl, also Gateway’s football coach since 2016, could have imagined. He had a lot of items on his to-do list, including in-person meetings with all of the teams’ head coaches.

But in the two months since, Holl has been just as busy, moving forward with his daily responsibilities from home and relying, like many others, on online technology to keep the machine running.

“Unless you’re having an event or a practice or something else on campus, it is remarkable what you are able to do from home,” said Holl who was hired Feb. 11 but had to wait a month before being released from his history teacher position at Seneca Valley.

“The goal in March was to have a discussion with each head coach about their program and find out what’s good, what needs improved and basically what I can do to help. We have some great head coaches leading teams at Gateway. Given the circumstances, we’ve tried to do a lot of those meetings virtually.”

Holl said Zoom has been the hub for meetings with the WPIAL and other athletic directors about a number of topics moving forward to be ready for whatever the future holds with getting back to workouts, practices and games.

“A big thing now, and hopefully we’ll have these upcoming seasons, is that the WPIAL continues to release fall, winter and spring sports schedules. A lot of work has been filling in schedules, confirming start times at away sites, making sure everyone has enough contests on the schedule, section and nonsection, and it’s constructed within the parameters set by the WPIAL.”

Sports budgets, Holl said, also have been a focus of his time.

“We don’t know what next year will look like money-wise,” he said. “We’re doing what we can with this year’s budget. So many things are up in the air right now.”

Randy Rovesti, Gateway’s athletic director since 2013, announced his retirement in August, and retired Gateway teacher and former middle school athletic coordinator Chuck Riley took over on an interim basis through January.

“Chuck’s been a longtime Gateway guy, and he did some good things in his time with the athletic department,” Holl said. “He knew the district through and through, and it made a lot of sense.”

Holl also will continue as Gateway football coach, and he said he has been busy with online meetings with his assistant coaches.

In keeping with social distancing, the NCAA suspended all in-person recruiting in late March, and Holl said he has taken calls from college coaches working from home.

Before beginning his Gateway football coaching tenure, which has resulted in a 45-11 overall record, two WPIAL Class 5A titles and a trip to the PIAA finals in Hershey, Holl served six years as coach at Seneca Valley. He compiled a 37-25 overall record there with a trip to the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals in 2012.

He also coached at Erie Prep as head coach and as an assistant at New Castle.

“Sports has been a central theme throughout my life, whether as an athlete, a sports parent or a coach,” Holl said. “I’ve always loved sports. I love working with students and athletes to help bring out the best in them I can. I love going to the different sporting events and watching our teams compete and succeed. Over the past four years, I’ve really become a Gateway guy. I am so grateful to be able to serve the Gateway community in this added capacity.”

Gateway superintendent William Short said the district is fortunate to have someone as dedicated as Holl to lead the athletic department.

“He has shown such a commitment to the student-athlete and making sure they come first,” Short said. “Knowing how much of a detailed-oriented person he is, there was no doubt he would be the right person for the position. We’ve communicated almost every other day, and he’s kept me informed as to all that is going on and what is the immediate and long-term future for high school sports.”

Holl said he, like many others, is anxiously monitoring the time when high school teams can return to organized activities.

The PIAA last month established a date of at least July 1 for teams to begin or resume offseason activities. That date preceded the red, yellow and green phase system for opening different parts of society.

“The PIAA has kind of molded what they are doing into that system and are working with the PA government,” Holl said.

“I don’t know if that means it could potentially be sooner, the same time or possibly even be later depending on when different counties go to green. I can’t imagine the PIAA letting schools have teams in one region start working out before schools in another region. The PIAA is taking things slow with the fall, the winter and anything else in the next cycle because it’s been so hard to predict.”

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

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