Mitch North has been a Bulldog most of his life, just not of the orange-and-black variety.
Even so, the Sparta native said he hopes to build off the strong infrastructure and community support already set in place for sports programs and strive for greatness as the new Waterloo school district athletic director.
North was hired to replace Dan Classen, who left to accept an assistant principal position in Missouri. He will also serve as dean of students at Waterloo High School, assisting the other administrators.
“Obviously the first thing you notice is that the facilities are amazing,” North said during a Monday interview from his office at Waterloo High School. “I’ve been blown away by how well everything seems to be kept up. You can tell there’s a lot of pride and ownership of this building and everything around it. The Booster Club has been very impressive to me. What they are able to provide to the school is impressive. Waterloo is a place that’s admired by other districts.”
A 2001 graduate of Sparta High School, North participated in basketball, golf and track for the Bulldogs. His father, Mark North, coached track at Sparta for more than 25 years.
“I grew up around athletics,” he said.
Following his graduation from Southeast Missouri State University, North taught in an alternative education program in Centralia and was the varsity basketball coach at Sandoval for one year before relocating to Joppa Maple Grove in Massac County to teach social studies and driver’s education.
He then returned to his alma mater, teaching social studies and serving as freshman boys basketball coach and junior high head boys basketball coach in the Sparta school district before his most recent stint as assistant principal at Sparta Lincoln School for the past two years. It is a pre-K through eighth grade school serving about 800 students.
North served as athletic director at Sparta Lincoln for one of those years.
North said he saw the position open up in Waterloo and thought he would take a shot.
North’s wife Sarah is a first grade teacher in Red Bud. Together, they have a 3-year-old son named Thomas and a 6-week-old daughter, Cecilia.
“She was born the day I interviewed here,” North said of his family’s new addition. “It was a pretty crazy day. A lot of life changes crammed into a weekend there.”
As Waterloo’s athletic director, North said he wants to be as observant as possible in the early going, taking in games and practices to get a feel for the Bulldog way.
“I want to be visible to those kids at the lower levels, especially,” he said. “That’s our future right there. That’s how you build.”
He also hopes to work well with all of the coaches.
“It’s really important to work with your head coaches of a sport and try and build a program that is consistent district-wide,” North said. “I want to coordinate and make sure everyone is on the same page. The basic principles should be the same.”
North said school sports are a great way to teach leadership and responsibility.
“There are a lot of opportunities to teach the life side of things with sports,” he said.
Waterloo school superintendent Brian Charron said the district is happy to have North on board.
“We look forward to Mr. North’s leadership of our athletic program and his contribution to the high school administrative team,” Charron said.
It’s been a quick transition over the past couple of weeks, North said, but at least he doesn’t have to change mascots.
“I even have a Bulldog at home,” North said. “We’ll just have to get him a different colored collar now.”