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updated: 9/14/2016 11:15 PM

Glenbard West's Brodner keeping up family tradition

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  • Hannah Brodner of Glenbard West returns a shot to Normal during Class 4A girls volleyball semifinal on Friday in Normal.

      Hannah Brodner of Glenbard West returns a shot to Normal during Class 4A girls volleyball semifinal on Friday in Normal.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central wrestling practice.

    Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central wrestling practice.
    Photo courtesy of Hinsdale Central High School

  • Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central swimming practice.

    Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central swimming practice.
    Photo courtesy of Hinsdale Central High School

  • Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central basketball practice.

    Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central basketball practice.
    Photo courtesy of Hinsdale Central High School

  • Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central soccer practice.

    Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central soccer practice.
    Photo courtesy of Hinsdale Central High School

  • Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central tennis practice.

    Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central tennis practice.
    Photo courtesy of Hinsdale Central High School

  • Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central cheerleading practice.

    Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central cheerleading practice.
    Photo courtesy of Hinsdale Central High School

  • Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central basketball practice.

    Athletic director Dan Jones participates in a Hinsdale Central basketball practice.
    Photo courtesy of Hinsdale Central High School

 
 

It is obvious -- fortunately not painfully obvious -- Hannah Brodner can hold her own on a volleyball court and in her own backyard.

The kid sister of two Division I football players, it's difficult to believe that with all the baseballs, footballs, soccer balls, basketballs and elbows being thrown around, the hardest knock the Glenbard West junior took was a broken finger.

And that happened playing rough house in the basement one Easter Sunday.

She still absorbed plenty from brothers Jake, a senior center for Duke's football team, and Sam, a freshman running back at Wisconsin and the 2015 captain of the Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area Football Team. Each ended their high school senior seasons as state champions.

"I always had that competitive factor in me, and they always inspired me to just push and go for what I want to do and never give up," Hannah said.

She's shown that on the volleyball court for coach Pete Mastandrea's Hilltoppers. The 5-foot-7 Brodner has taken on a new position, setter and accepted more of a leadership role. She played defensive specialist on last year's 36-6 squad that lost to St. Francis in the Class 4A championship.

"This should be a complete rebuilding process for us," Mastandrea said Tuesday. "We have six sophomores on varsity and we're playing Hannah at a position that's not her own and we're 12-3. So there's a huge correlation."

Given her lineage it's not unexpected. Her father, John, played football at Purdue. Her mother, Lesli, was a competitive figure skater. They met sitting next to each other on an airplane.

Starting as a tyke in tee ball, Hannah went through all the sports on various fields and in backyard scrimmages. Sam, born 18 months before Hannah, was her athletic role model, Jake an academic booster during her time at St. Petronille Catholic School in Glen Ellyn.

They lived by routine: school, homework, practice, dinner, 9 o'clock bedtime.

"We always just relied on each other," said Hannah, an all-tourney pick this season at Wheaton North and a national runner-up with her Under-16 First Alliance club volleyball team this summer. "We had each other's back if we ever needed anything."

Hannah absorbed the full impact of sports leadership seeing big brother Jake at midfield before the 2012 Class 7A championship football game in Champaign.

"To see him walk out for the coin toss and call it, earning that captain spot, it comes with a lot of hard work and effort," Hannah said. "Seeing him I wanted to earn those qualities that he had so I could help lead my team."

Briefs

North Central College and the family of former swimming coach Dennis Ryan will present a Celebration of Life for Mr. Ryan, who passed away Sept. 12. The 1990 NCAA Division III national coach of the year, Ryan coached 47 All-Americans during a 27-year coaching career, which began in 1974. He was inducted into the college's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008. The Celebration of Life will be held 7-9 p.m. Sept. 21 at Merner Field House on the college campus.

The Bulls/Sox Youth Academy in Lisle is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Sept. 17 is Bulls day, when in a free open house from 9 a.m. to noon people meet Benny the Bull, get a photo with the Bulls' six championship trophies and participate in skills competitions. From 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 24 it's White Sox day at the Youth Academy; attendees can get a picture with the 2005 World Series Trophy and compete in a whiffle ball home derby, among other things. Call (630) 324-8221 for details.

A man for all seasons

Hinsdale Central has its own Walter Mitty right in the athletic office. Or is it Juan Ponce de León?

Spurred by a presentation two summers ago at a National Athletic Directors Conference, Red Devils athletic director Dan Jones participated in one varsity practice in every sport over the fall and winter seasons last school year. This fall he's on track to attack the busiest session on the prep calendar, the spring season.

This is a 50-year-old man going on 17, but in a positive way.

"When I've been doing this I've had some absolutely great conversations with the athletes," said Jones, in his fifth year at Hinsdale Central after 22 years at DeKalb, the first 15 as a teacher and coach.

"They get to know me a little bit more and I get to know them in a different venue. It really opens up a line of communication between me and the athletes."

Such as graduated tennis player Sophia Haleas, who before a practice drill asked Jones what, exactly, does an athletic director do?

"Just those kind of conversations, they happened at every practice. It was great being around the student athletes and just talking to them," he said.

Jones worked with coaches' schedules to ensure he didn't disrupt game preparation, and obviously focused on proper etiquette on his days with the various girls teams. For example, his day with the girls swim team was spent in a 6 a.m. dryland conditioning and lifting session.

From football to cross country to golf to cheerleading he took his reps. He joined his daughter, Lily, one day in gymnastics.

"I basically mimicked her floor routine as much as I could and I got up on the beam a little bit," said Jones, keeping in shape until indoor track begins in January.

A former wrestler at Oak Forest High School and wrestling coach at DeKalb, Jones was in his element on the mat. The boys basketball practice was an up-tempo challenge, but boys swim practice was the most physically demanding. Alternately, the good-natured ribbing the boys dished out made Jones feel "like they were taking me in as their own."

Parents and athletes responded positively. His own body did as well. Entering the fall at 196 pounds on a 5-foot-6 frame -- he's got that stout, solid wrestler's physique -- Jones lost 16 pounds by the end of winter's practices and remains 180 pounds.

Getting in shape was a goal, but discovering the fountain of youth was not the main draw for the man who puts the athletic in "athletic director."

"I really miss being in the classroom every day with the kids and coaching," he said. "It was a really hard decision for me to be in administration 12 years ago, but I always still try to have that contact with athletes and still try to be that kind of administrator that students can approach and ask questions and feel comfortable talking to."

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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