Meet Meredith Hinz, the new athletic director at Coronado Middle School. Hinz has been lucky enough to live in Coronado not once, not twice, but three times. She and her husband Jake, who is retired from the United States Navy, first lived here in the mid-90s before they had any children. They then returned to Coronado in the early 2000s with their two toddlers, daughters Anna and Julia. Five years ago they made their final move with the Navy, and decided to set up a forever home right here in the Crown City. Hinz is in awe that Anna will already be starting her freshman year at Coronado High School while Julia will be an eighth grader at Coronado Middle School.
Hinz grew up in East Hampton on Long Island, New York, and attended Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, where she graduated in 1994. Initially she pursued a degree in physical education, but says she changed her major to exercise physiology, which she felt was a better fit. The degree in exercise physiology not only gave her a science background, but also provided her with a business background, allowing her to manage and operate facilities from corporate to clinical to commercial. Of her time at Springfield College, Hinz says, “I loved that school and that campus. It gave me a fantastic background and a great education. It was a wonderful college experience.”
A lifelong athlete herself, Hinz played field hockey and “dabbled in basketball” while in college. “It was a very competitive team to say the least,” she says of her field hockey team. She adds, “They did really well in their division.” Hinz reflects, “I miss field hockey. We don’t really have that out here. My kids ask, ‘What in the world is field hockey?’ I pull out my sticks, and they think it’s the funniest thing ever. I wish they had field hockey here.”
With a huge smile on her face, Hinz becomes even more enlivened as she begins talking about her new position at CMS. “I just took on this challenge of this job. Rob Smith did this job prior to me, and he did a fantastic job of helping really build the middle school sports. My kids have been involved in middle school sports so I obviously helped out at the different events that both of my girls were attending,” she says.
Hinz continues, “I think that sports is kind of this commonality for kids to be able to meet friends, like-minded individuals. I think it helps create a more well rounded student with a kid who’s involved in sports.” According to Hinz, being involved with school sports helps students work on time management as they learn “to give dedicated hours” to athletic endeavors as well as their education so they can accomplish everything.
“Obviously with my background, sports have always been in the forefront of my mind, so when this opportunity came up, I thought, ‘It’s the perfect fit for me.’ I love this age,” Hinz shares. She believes wholeheartedly that middle school is the age where students can really begin to develop a foundation in sports and try new athletic activities. She passionately asserts, “I honestly feel like there’s a sport for every kid. Something is going to just create that spark and that love of, ‘Hey! I really like this!’ or ‘I really like that!’ In middle school they’re able to do this really, really well, and it’s their first time they get to pick and choose the sport; not Mom and Dad signing them up.” Hinz feels that middle school is the time when kids can say, “This season I would love to try this.”
One aspect of sports at Coronado Middle School that Hinz finds particularly exciting is the fact that all students can play. There are no try-outs at Coronado Middle School, which means that there are no students who are cut from a team. “We take every single kid who wants to play, and they’re going to play. They’re going to learn about that sport, and hopefully we’re developing a love for that sport for them to then continue into high school and possibly beyond,” she says.
Hinz is adamant that she wants students to give unfamiliar sports a try. “I always find it’s just as important to find out what you don’t like as it is to find out what you do like. Both of those things are extremely invaluable lessons. To try something, and say, ‘It’s not really for me,’ is perfectly fine,” Hinz says. She hopes that as students take the initiative to try playing different sports they realize which sports are a good fit for them. Even if a student tries a new sport, and realizes it’s not his or her favorite sport, Hinz believes it’s important to honor the commitment to play that sport for the duration of the season.
One of the programs Hinz is hoping to implement as she takes on her new role as athletics director is a mentor program between high school students, who are deeply involved in their respective sports, and middle school students, who are still developing their interests in athletics. Hinz believes a mentor program will afford high school students with the chance to spark younger students’ interests while possibly developing their own coaching skills. She says, “I would really like to start a program where high school students can come down, and earn volunteer hours that they need for graduation.”
Hinz speculates that middle school students will benefit just as much from the mentor program because they will get to learn firsthand from older kids who might inspire them to try to excel at sports too. “It [mentor program] just helps create this connection of what the possibilities of the next step for these athletes are. I think for the high schoolers who are able devote that time to give back, it’s such an amazing opportunity for them to help showcase, ‘Here’s where you can go with it, up to this level’ and ‘I’m still striving for the next level.’ For the middle schoolers, it’s the next obvious, realistic goal instead of always looking up to the professional athletes. There are goals in between.” She wants middle school students to realize that they can someday possibly have the same athletic skills in high school if they’re willing to put in an equal level of effort as their high school mentors. The mentor program will emphasize that athletic success doesn’t happen by accident, and that most athletes aren’t born great; they become great by years of dedication.
Hinz applies that same level of dedication to athletics to her own life. While she no longer plays field hockey, she remains very active, setting a good example herself. “I’m an avid runner. I run probably a good four to six times per week. As an adult, about three years ago I started playing tennis, which I really have a lot of fun at. I don’t know that I’m fantastic at it, but I’m enjoying it and trying really hard. I just kind of like to do everything. I like to surf. I like to go body surfing. I like to be at the beach. I like really anything that’s outdoors.”
Even though basketball wasn’t the sport she loved in college, she recently discovered how much fun she can have with it. “I played a pickup game of basketball with my daughter’s basketball team. The coach at the middle school does a fantastic job of holding a parents versus kids basketball game at the end of the season. I hadn’t played basketball in a very long time, and it was fantastically fun. I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh! I want to play more basketball!’ There’s never really any sport that I’ll turn down,” she surmises. “I do try to do something enjoyable every single day.”
When it comes to her own children, she encourages them to try all sports, and to especially give a chance to what she refers to as “lifetime sports” such as running, golf, tennis, and swimming. “Even if you don’t do them competitively, that’s fine,” she tells her kids, “but have something to continue to grow with throughout your life. Being able to fall back on that [a lifetime sport], you’re always going to find a group of friends, and you’re always going to meet some fantastic people, no matter where you are or what the circumstances may be. Being involved in sports is really important not just as a kid, but throughout your whole life. It keeps you young, and keeps you happy.”
Hinz laughs when asked how she will feel working at her younger daughter’s school when the new school year begins in August. “It’s kind of funny. We had that discussion. I told her, ‘You’re going to be just like everyone else.’ I don’t think it’s going to be a challenge. I think it’s going to be fun,” she remarks.
Through watching both of her daughters play middle school sports, Hinz feels like she’s had the opportunity already to meet a great number of students. She says she always enjoys watching her daughters and their friends grow as they play sports, and that she likes observing which sports Anna, Julia, and their friends are getting into and trying. Hinz is eager to meet more student athletes, saying, “I think it’s going to be a fun opportunity to get to know a lot of different kids on a lot of different levels. I’m looking forward to seeing how these kids progress from the first day of practice to the last game of the season; there is always a definite progression and change in these kids that come in knowing nothing about a sport, who then leave understanding all the basics.” Hinz especially appreciates when kids, who are unfamiliar with a sport initially, finish the season with skills that make them ready to compete at the next level, when they make that transition from being newbies to being seasoned athletes. She’s eager to watch her daughter, as well as her fellow middle school athletes, continue to be molded in the respective sports that they choose.
Of the importance of athletics for students, Hinz says, “I think athletics are a great basis to have kids find themselves, find their self confidence, be able to set goals, and be able to time manage. They’re just a great opportunity for them to discover more about themselves, and grow as people. I always say that the kids who are involved in sports are setting themselves up for supreme success because they have to develop these skills early on to be able to manage so many different things.” Student athletes have to manage academics, athletics, friendships, free time, chores, and more, and according to Hinz, “It takes a lot of skill to figure out how they’re going to fit that all into one day, and they do it. It’s a great skill to build on.”
Middle school students may be lucky that Hinz is taking the reigns as the athletic director, but she is adamant that none of this would be possible if it were not for a special organization here in town. “We’re fortunate here in Coronado to have middle school sports. We’re only one of two public middle schools in San Diego County to offer middle school sports. Islander Sports Foundation does a fantastic job of working throughout the year to raise funds to be able to support the middle school and the high school programs. Honestly if we didn’t have Islander Sports Foundation, there would be no middle school sports. I obviously have to give a nod to them because it’s such an important organization. I can’t even speak highly enough of what they do. They do two fundraisers a year with the golf tournament and the 4th of July run. They’re always looking for volunteers and people who want to help out being on the board and help out at the events. Without the donations there can’t be an Islander Sports Foundation, and without Islander Sports Foundation there can’t be any sports for our schools. It’s incredibly important for this foundation to continue being funded and helped.”
Hinz is proud to announce that a new website for Islander Sports Foundation has been launched. The new site is islandersportsfoundation.com rather than the previous site that ended with .org. (If a user types in the old website address that ended in .org, he or she will be rerouted to the new website.) Registration for middle school and high school sports has been streamlined. Hinz says that parents and athletes will be able to find all necessary information and be able to connect to their coaches and teams, get alerts for all the different sports, and access upcoming events for all sports for the week. “It’s a really nice website that was just launched on July 6th,” Hinz says, noting how the new site will be especially useful to parents who need to keep track of multiple athletes playing various sports in different grade levels.
Hinz is also excited to announce that there’s now an app called VNN (Varsity News Network) that parents and students can download to their smart devices to access all of the sports information for Coronado High School and Coronado Middle School. The app will make it easier for users to access dates and locations of upcoming games, scores of completed games, and alerts, including delays and cancellations of games due to inclement weather. The app is free, and once it’s downloaded, users can select Coronado High School. Coronado Middle School is not listed under the options of schools to choose from, but once users select Coronado High School they will find that Coronado Middle School’s sports information is listed along with Coronado High School’s sports information. Once Coronado High School is selected, users may select which sports team(s) they wish to follow. See the example below.
With such exciting changes already underway and new possibilities on the horizon, there’s no doubt that Meredith Hinz’s new role as athletic director at Coronado Middle School is already off to a promising start. Go, Tritons!