Coach: South's new AD is a Titan today, Titan for life
Glenbrook South's new athletic director is not nearly as hard to get ahold of now as he used to be. In fact, after one brief email, he returned my call right away.
I was a bit worried: My first encounter with AD Tom Mietus was some two decades ago when I used to announce the high school game of the week for Comcast and, back then, Mietus was the master of evasion, as a hard-to-catch quarterback of (how do I say this nicely?) an "undersized" Maine West team.
We did their games a couple of times, and I still remember the then-young quarterback literally running for his life, as his brave but outmanned linemen were getting buried by the New Triers and Maine Souths of the suburban football world. Mietus seemed in a constant state of elusiveness, while being chased down and hit both early and often.
But I also remember how tough he was. And how talented. He was really athletic, could throw when given time, was a load to bring down, and ran the ball with a relentless abandon -- his natural high level competitive nature never allowing him to let up, irregardless of some lopsided scores.
Now, fast forward some twenty years or so, and as a first-year athletic director for the Glenbrook South Titans, Mietus will need to use all of those same attributes, and then some, including the toughness, leadership and competitiveness to try and instill a new culture for Glenbrook South athletics.
"That is exactly what we want to build," says the new AD, "a culture where we are developing great relationships with the kids we coach, getting everything out of them, and trying to get them to exceed even their own limitations."
It should be noted here, that Mietus, while a first time AD, is no rookie to the school or the athletic program. The former Maine West Warrior has been at South 17 years now and has coached both football and wrestling during that time, as well as serving as assistant athletic director.
Last year, a year of transition year in so many ways, of course, Mietus served as "athletic director in waiting" under interim AD Andy Turner, who came out of retirement to help the Titan program for the one year.
"I had a lot of responsibility last year," Mietus explains, "So that really prepared me. I learned a great deal under former AD Steve Rockrohr, and then last year got a little different perspective and way of doing things from Mr. Turner. Both have helped me in developing my philosophy."
A philosophy that he has started shaping right away. He got all the Titan coaches together before the start of the school year for a four-hour staff development session to get everyone on the same page and gather input from all the coaches. Together they came with the mantra "Titans today, Titans for life."
In addition he, and the coaching staff as a whole, found a way to use the T.I.T.A.N.S. acronym to help symbolize the culture they are trying to create.
"The first T is for Team," explains Mietus, "the letters symbolizing, Together Everyone Accomplishes More. The I is for Integrity -- doing what is right. The next T is for toughness, more specifically, the ability to adapt, adjust and attack, which we really had to do when the pandemic hit."
He continues, "The A stands for All In, with energy and effort, the N for Now, meaning be where your feet are (live in the moment), and finally, the S is for success. Not just wins and losses, but more importantly, success defined as making sure you leave the program in four years better than it was when you started."
All good stuff from the new athletic director, and the Titan coaches, both young and old, are buying in. Mietus enthusiasm is contagious.
"This is what I always wanted to do," he said. "I love coaching, but I enjoy even more coaching the coaches. I think I have been pretty good at developing relationships with the kids I have coached, and I want to continue to help young coaches to be able to do the same thing."
One change he instituted right away was the traditional season opening "code of conduct" session. A longtime Saturday morning, once-per-season, tradition of gathering all the players, coaches and parents from that particular season's sports teams and going over rules and regulations.
"I wanted to change the name, because I think it is more than just a 'code of conduct' meeting," says Mietus. "We still go over the code, but I wanted a little more emphasis on the fun and enthusiasm of the coming season. So we changed the name to the Fall Kick Off and had the cheerleaders, the pompom squad, the marching band all contributing to the spirit, while the Booster Club conducted some fun games and contests between the teams. I think it went really well," he concluded.
As far as programs on the rise at South, Mietus mentioned wrestling and basketball, as well as field hockey and boys and girls lacrosse. Football, too, was mentioned where the numbers are starting to rise again, after a long period of decline due to concussion concerns.
"But we will put emphasis on every sport, and we have a great group of coaches," says Mietus. "I have already coached with many of them, and I think they know me pretty well. We have a good relationship and I look forward to working with all of them!"
As a young athletic director, time management will be one of his biggest challenges. Inherent in the job is a lot of long days and long hours. I asked family man Mietus how that has affected home life.
"A challenge, no question," he says with a little chuckle. "We have two junior high boys at home, and they are both involved in sports, and they go to school up in Kenosha, so it's hard. I have to be very adept in managing my time, which I am getting better at. But the real hero at home, no question, is my wife, Jennifer. She does a phenomenal job keeping the family intact and on track and giving me great support as well."
Nicely played by the young athletic director, who appears to be learning quickly. Always good to throw kudos to the wife, especially when you are away from home so much.
Finally, as we have learned many times, change is part of the nature of school and sports, and Glenbrook South is going through that right now with the start a new era in their athletic department. No doubt there will be many new challenges both now and in the future.
But methinks the old Maine West quarterback, who used to be running for his life in his teams backfield, is now on much more solid ground and ready and excited to lead the Titans on to greater days ahead.
Let's hope Mietus truly becomes a "Titan For Life."
• Jon Cohn of Glenview is a coach, retired PE teacher, sports official and prep sports fan. To contact him with comments or story ideas, email email@example.com.