McKenna gets nod as new Torrington A.D.
McKenna gets nod as new Torrington A.D.
TORRINGTON – Mike McKenna went to Torrington schools and played football at Torrington High. He has taught physical education to THS students and coached numerous Red Raider teams. He has taped Red Raider ankles and massaged sore Red Raider muscles as school trainer.
The city and the school have been an inseparable part of McKenna’s life. All of which renders his appointment Wednesday night as the new Torrington High athletic director replacing Janet Giampaolo as a natural step.
While some might think McKenna was played football without his helmet on too often for taking on the demands of a position that some call the toughest in the school system at the age of 57 when most are winding their careers down, well, the call of THS was too strong.
“Torrington High sports have been part of my entire life,” said McKenna. “They have been a driving force in what has shaped me for better or worse. I’m looking forward to it.”
McKenna will teach three classes although the details still have to be worked out due to the lateness of the appointment as officials sought the right person for the job.
McKenna’s history bleeds maroon and white with a few detours along the way. THS, class of 1973, he was an 185-pound lineman until monoucleosis before his senior season cost him 30 lbs. and teammates like Paul Denza (future Yale star) were moving him around like a pinball. Kicking was a safer option.
McKenna went on to play football at Mattatuck Community College and then then moved on to Central Connecticut and Northwestern C.C. where he played baseball for John Ferguson.
He ended up his college days at Wilmington College in Ohio where he obtained a degree in physical education and sports medicine. After graduation had a tryout with the Pittsburg Steelers in 1977 as a kicker.
In 1982 McKenna went in to business with his father, Dr. James McKenna, becoming co-owner and Director of SPORTSMED Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Practice in Torrington.
Meanwhile, McKenna took on the duties as the athletic trainer for THS from 1982-2000 while at the same time performing the same duties with the Torrington Twisters collegiate baseball team from 1997-2005.
When former THS football coach Chris Medve resigned to take a job in Simsbury in 2001, McKenna was hired as a physical education teacher at THS and continues in the position today.
At various times, McKenna has coached in the football and baseball programs and still does so today while even doing a stint as assistant swim coach way back in 1978-79. In 2004, McKenna coached the Forman School (Litchfield) football team.
There are no specific driving priorities for McKenna as he assumes his new duties. He will meet with Giampaolo in the upcoming days to start learning the nuances of the position.
“I have got to see how things run and what actually goes on,” McKenna said. “I will be sitting down with coaches, administrators and parents to see where we are going and developing plans.”
McKenna will pay special attention to his coaches.
“In Torrington we have a fantastic group of coaches,” he said. “I look at my job as a facilitator, to help and give resources not to run their programs. I’m looking to promote sports so the kids can get the best experience they can. I had a great experience with coaches like Bruce Kasenetz, Bob Frost and Newell Porch. All were quality people that contributed to programs.”
In the days of dwindling budgets, McKenna does see the resource issue as paramount.
“We have to find different resources and develop them in the community,” said McKenna. That means we have to sell the benefit of these programs. We want to promote Torrington sports into a great program and it’s right on the edge now.
One helpful resource in recent times has been the creation of the Torrington Football Letterman’s which has promoted the football program providing additional financial and material resources. McKenna would like to see that kind of promotion for the entire athletic program.
‘Why not an alumni association where we would bring former athletes back and get them involved in programs?,” suggested McKenna. “We want to promote and we need resources.”
One thing is certain, no one will promote Torrington High athletics more fervently than Mike McKenna. He’s been a Red Raider his entire life. It’s in his blood.