Erickson Lauded For Support, Dedication

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Chris Hardman has been the baseball coach at Ottawa Hills practically since Noah built an arc.

Hardman was also an assistant football coach for the Green Bears in the early 1990s when new school athletic director Tim Erickson approached him about possibly becoming the head football coach.

"He did take a chance on me as a football coach," said Hardman, who was the head football coach from 1998 through 2013. "I had no desire to be the coach and he had no desire for me to be the (head) coach. I wanted to stay with coaching football, but not as the head coach.

"I was an assistant, but we couldn't find anybody. Tim had faith in me and I've always appreciated that. We both looked around to try to find somebody who had head coaching experience, and I'm thankful I got to be the head coach."

Jim McGill was one of the most successful boys golf coaches in Northwest Ohio when he led the Green Bears from 1992 to 2015. Norm Niedermeier was McGill's athletic director, before Niedermeier turned the position over to Erickson in 1993.

"Tim and I had a wonderful relationship," McGill said. "He helped the golf team every which way he could. We often talked about athletics in general and he talked about the golf team every time we would meet. The biggest thing he told me one time was that he realized I knew what I was doing, and he let me be and let me do my own thing.

"Tim showed encouragement, and that means everything. It gave me confidence to make the right decisions and understand that he trusts me. Take a look at the (school) facilities and what has improved under his tenure. It's incredible compared to other schools. It's sad to see him go."

Erickson, 54, will retire as Ottawa Hills' athletic director later this summer.

He said he has no regrets and he truly enjoyed his time at the school. He said it's time for him to spend more time with his son, put his feet up for a while, and not roll out of bed wondering what to do or who to call if a backboard or a scoreboard or something else breaks or malfunctions during a home basketball game.

"It doesn't matter where you are as an athletic director," Erickson said. "It takes you a couple years to figure things out. The job is overwhelming and it's a time consuming job. When a young person tells me, 'I want to be an athletic director,' I tell them, 'this is not a job or a career or a lifestyle. You have to be willing to put the time in and your family has to understand the commitments.'"

Erickson said he's probably worked about 75 hours a week for years, which has cut into his personal life. At the same time, he said, he "loved" what he was doing.

"You miss a lot of (family) things," Erickson said. "You miss a lot of outings and things like that."

Erickson grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich., and earned his undergraduate degree at Iowa State University. He worked for the Seattle Mariners' Class A team for two years as an athletic trainer and traveling secretary.

"It was a lot of fun," Erickson said. "Again, it was long hours and the days ran together. After a while, you forgot what town you were in. Midway through the second year I realized that lifestyle was not for me. I was getting tired of living out of a suitcase. It was fun and I learned a lot, but I told myself there was no way I could continue to do this the rest of my life."

Erickson earned his master's degree in sports medicine at Ohio University in 1989 before attending Ferris State University to work as a hockey trainer for one year.

Erickson became the head athletic trainer for men's basketball at the University of Toledo. Soon after, UT Athletic Director Al Bohl told him about a position at Ottawa Hills.

"I applied and I said the worst thing that could happen to me was to get (the job) and turn it down," Erickson said. "They offered me, and I knew that late in my career I would get out of being a trainer and get into athletic administration. The opportunity just presented itself way earlier in my life than I anticipated."

Erickson became the school's athletic director and transportation director in June 1993. Back then, Ottawa Hills did not offer boys or girls lacrosse or girls soccer.

"We were known for baseball," Erickson said, "and the tennis and golf programs were strong, as was field hockey."

In the last 20-plus years Ottawa Hills has added classrooms, renovated and expanded the main gym, replaced the stands in Niedemeier Stadium, added artificial turf to Black Field, and installed permanent stands and batting cages at Hardman Field.

"One of the greatest things Tim did for Ottawa Hills athletics was oversee the improvement at the football field, and certainly the softball field," Hardman said. "A lot of our facilities got better and he had a lot to do with that, no question. People probably can't appreciate how hard he worked for our students, our athletes and our coaches. It's very difficult to replace the job he did, because he worked his tail off."

Erickson's last official day is July 31.

"I have no regrets," he said. "I'll miss the interaction with all the people, with the officials and the other athletic directors and coaches. I won't miss the hours. What really caused me to reflect was when I had my heart attack (last July). That was an eye-opener for me; retiring was a no-brainer. I could enjoy my son and get my weekends back. I've never had weekends. It's going to be a very good life change."

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