Feb 12, 2021
When John Pelin was hired as athletic director for the Spencerport Central School District, he hit the ground running.
Never mind the amount of experience Pelin had at the time failed to extend much beyond the then 32-year old's degree in administration.
"I had head coaching experience," Pelin said of his time in Sussex County, New Jersey. "I feel very fortunate that Spencerport took a chance on someone who had a lack of experience and gave me the support to be able do the job for 30 years."
Pelin's time as Spencerport's athletic director is winding down. The finish line for Pelin, who grew up in Fairport, is at the end of June, after a career in education sprawling 40 years. If Pelin, 62, still has a resume, it looks a bit different now.
“He’s been a mentor for ADs all across the state, myself included," Hilton athletic director Mike Giruzzi said. "When John speaks, people, they typically listen."
Others might also model a thing or two in their athletic programs after ideas, approaches and accomplishments at Spencerport.
The school district's Spencerport Student-Athletes Care program is 28 years old. The athletic teams are required to volunteer their time in the community or put together a charity project that could aid their neighbors. The program was recognized on a national level back in 1994.
“I’m an old-school traditionalist,' Pelin said. "I really feel that you play for your community, you play for your school, you play for your school colors, you play for your classmates and we have values that we want to uphold our coaches and student-athletes to.
“Over the 30 years, we shouldn’t have to stray too far from those expectations and values.”
High school athletes in Spencerport are familiar with the letters P-R-I-D-E, put together standing for Proud Rangers Inspire a Drug-free Environment.
"We’ve visited other places to see what works with them and how we can fit into ours," Pelin said. "We take a look at student programs, whether it be our chemical-free programs, our participation programs, our varsity club programs, we’re always trying to find ways to improve.
"We focused more on relationships and student development, and got away a little bit from the Xs and Os. It’s tough to do, because the public sees the win-loss record, but I think there is a lot that goes into it. It’s still, as corny as it may sound, about the relationships and the lifelong kinds of memories."
And there has been movement of Xs and Os to Monroe County league, Section V (54) and state (17 individual and team combined) titles. The first girls lacrosse program among the west side schools in the league was at Spencerport.
"He’s had his hands on really impressive improvements of the Spencerport facilities," Greece Olympia assistant athletic director Ferdi Auriuso said. "That is the mark he is going to leave behind.
"He not only was able to get the facilities to the level that they are, but get a winning culture beyond wrestling. Spencerport girls soccer is a two-time state champion. That’s impressive and not an accident. They take a tremendous amount of pride in having top-notch facilities, top-notch coaches. It’s only getting better."
Pelin was a physical education teacher who also coached the Lenape Valley (N.J.) Regional High School's varsity boys basketball and soccer and the freshman baseball teams when he took a look at a position in Spencerport.
"I was kind of looking for a larger school, with an eye on basketball," Pelin said. "They communicated back that they had a basketball opening, but did not have a physical education job. The only job they had open was director of physical education and athletics, but you couldn’t coach.
"I wasn’t really ready to give up phys ed teaching and coaching, but I said what the heck for the experience. If I get an interview, I get to come home and visit my parents. I got an interview."
"The superintendent at the time, Joe Clement, wanted some significant changes made in the direction of the athletic program," Pelin said. "So that was one way that allowed me to move forward, but I also feel that there is nothing better than public school high school athletics."
Pelin said the school's athletic program was able to grow in different ways because there were "a lot of great people who supported us and helped move us in the right direction."
"That made it easy to stay as well,” Pelin said.
Greg Kincaid, vice-president of the Spencerport school district board, was the first person Pelin hired at Spencerport 30 years ago.
"When he came in, the former AD left a set of keys and a note that said good luck. John has done incredible things at Spencerport. When he got there, the structure was very limited. He is one of the people and things you think of when you say Rangers. His work effort is second to none."