Rovesti closes successful chapter as Norwin's athletic director
By Doug Gulasy
Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
During his time as Norwin's athletic director, Randy Rovesti ended his afternoon sports announcements and emails with the same two words: “Go Knights!”
The short sentence — and accompanying exclamation point — was emblematic of Rovesti's passion for Norwin, the district where he spent 29 years, including the past 10 as athletic director.
Rovesti's retirement from the school district will take effect Thursday.
“The 10 years flew by,” said Rovesti, 61. “We have great kids here, we have good athletes here and Norwin achieves, year-in, year-out, at a pretty high rate athletically as well as academically among the athletes. Every day was just enjoyable.”
During Rovesti's 10 years as Norwin athletic director, the school won six WPIAL titles — including a four-year championship run by the girls track and field team from 2006-09, plus single titles by the girls cross country and field hockey teams — and dozens of section titles.
“If you look at all of our teams, we achieved very well in a lot of sports,” Rovesti said. “The plaques up on the wall for section championships — when we host an event here, parents from other schools will come in and take a look, and they're just in awe of how well we do overall. I think that's a tribute to the kids, the coaches and everyone in general.”
A 1970 Gateway graduate, Rovesti played football at William & Mary under Lou Holtz and later coached at William and Mary, BYU and North Carolina State. He was an assistant coach at Plum from 1978-83 before taking over as the Knights' coach.
He coached Norwin from 1984-93, led the Knights to their first playoff game in school history and was twice voted conference coach of the year.
“We had some success, and we had some not-so-good years, but we always had fun,” Rovesti said. “That was the big thing.”
In addition to his time as coach and athletic director, Rovesti spent nine years in the classroom at Norwin, teaching science, physical education and health, and 10 years as an assistant principal at Norwin Middle School East.
“Mr. Rovesti is very dedicated and loyal to the Norwin School District, and in particular to our student-athletes,” Norwin superintendent William Kerr said. “He's an outstanding administrator ... as athletic director and director of student activities and transportation, he's become a legend. He's a legend, in my mind, (for) the outstanding leadership he's provided for our athletic program.”
The Norwin School Board hired Rovesti's successor at a meeting last week, appointing North Catholic athletic director Mike Burrell as director of athletics and student activities. Burrell worked previously as an assistant athletic director under Rovesti.
District director of food and nutrition services Rod Stewart will take over Rovesti's former job as transportation director, though Burrell will still handle athletic transportation.
Rovesti said he began considering retirement because of uncertainties over the future of teacher pensions in Pennsylvania. After researching the issue for about eight months, he elected to retire.
The Norwin School Board accepted his retirement at its April meeting.
“You think you're never going to get old, then all of a sudden you turn around and you are,” he said. “I spent 29 years at Norwin, and I loved every day of it. I feel very fortunate to be given the opportunity to be a teacher, to be a coach, to be assistant principal and to be athletic director — very fortunate.”
Rovesti said his proudest moments as Norwin athletic director came from seeing students excel after leaving the high school. His relationships with student-athletes were strong enough that they often worked in his office during the school day, and he talked to athletes often through the day.
“You learn a lot by listening, and I would hear them talk about this coach, that coach, this teacher, that teacher, and use some of that for, ‘Hey, we need to do this or that,' ” Rovesti said. “I think you learn more from listening to kids than you do from lecturing kids. And I enjoyed having them around. They make me feel a little bit younger, I guess, but you also get a pulse on what's going on in the school.”
Rovesti said he also kept a healthy relationship with Norwin's coaches.
“I think we have coaches that not only know their sport, but they treat kids well,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think that's all any parent wants — to know that their kids are being treated in a respectful manner. It's not about wins and losses. It's about having a good experience.
“My goal has always been that kids look back 10 years down the road, 20 years down the road, and have a love for Norwin High School because of everything Norwin does — not only athletically but academically, clubs, band.”
As director of athletics, student activities and transportation, Rovesti took part in mostly behind-the-scenes work: scheduling, organizing transportation, keeping facilities in order and making sure the athletic department ran smoothly.
“We pretty much play Norwin in everything, (and) I talked to him on a pretty regular basis,” Penn-Trafford athletic director Kerry Hetrick said. “He's one of the best there is to deal with.”
In addition to his behind-the-scenes work, Rovesti maintained a healthy presence at Norwin's games and said he would miss seeing the athletes he knew compete.
While Rovesti is retiring at Norwin, he recently was hired as interim athletic director at Gateway. He said he would stay at his alma mater as needed until the district finds a full-time athletic director.
But even though he's leaving Norwin full-time, he doesn't expect to be able to stay away.
“I'll be around,” he said. “I'm just retiring — I'm not dead.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.
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