Getting back to farm roots part of QHS athletic director’s decision to shift roles

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Quincy High School athletic director Matt McClelland, left, hands former QHS basketball player Reid O'Brien the championship trophy following the QHS Thanksgiving Tournament in 2022 at Blue Devil Gym. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Matt McClelland’s roots are in the dirt.

He feels it’s about time he got back to it.

After spending more than 20 years teaching and coaching in the Quincy Public Schools, including the past three as the Quincy High School athletic director, McClelland will become the next director of the West Central Region Education for Employment System and Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center.

His appointment to the new position became official during Wednesday night’s Quincy School Board meeting, and QHS’s search for a new athletic director is underway.

“With any move like this, there are going to be huge challenges,” McClelland said. “I’m not naive enough to think my 80-hour work week is now going to 40. It’s not. This is an administrative role. I’m going to be leading a department that has all these different areas — you have ag and welding and diesel, then you have the graphics and computer tech kids.

“It’s kind of like running an athletic department, where there’s all these different sports and everybody has their own interests and own ideas and things that are important to them. Trying to find a way to blend that all together is going to be challenging, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

He’s ready to get his hands dirty again, too.

A native of Rushville who ran cross country collegiately at Southern Illinois University, McClelland grew up on a family farm in Schuyler County. His father, Morris, spent 37 years teaching agriculture at Rushville High School.

“I took every single ag class I could in high school because I wanted to be with dad, but I also loved ag,” McClelland said.

The family farm is still thriving.

“These days, I tend to use the farm more to hunt than to actually work on,” McClelland said. “Still, it’s part of my roots. It’s part of who I am. When I grew up on the family farm, we had a lot of show pigs that we took to county fairs around the area. That’s who I was. We don’t have the pigs anymore, but we still have the farm.

“This helps get me back in touch more with the other side of me. I was a vocational type of kid when I was in high school who could run. So running became my thing.”

That led him to not only a degree in education, where he became a junior high science teacher, but also a career in coaching. McClelland served as the QHS cross country coach and track and field coach from 2013-21.

He succeeded Scott Douglas as athletic director in July 2021.

“As much as I am an athlete, I’m a country, farm kid type of guy,” McClelland said. “It tends to lean into the other side of me, which I don’t think a lot of people in this community know. They know me as a teacher and a coach and part of athletics.”

“At this point in my career, as I get older, I want to get back to my roots again.”

Time for his family is important. McClelland’s oldest son, Eric, is a freshman running cross country at Indiana State University, and because of his athletic director responsibilities, he was able to watch only one of his son’s four races last fall.

His time away from family truly hit home last December when McClelland took advantage of some schedule changes to get home early.

“I remember walking in the door and my youngest son Joel looked at me kind of weird and said, ‘Why are you here?’” McClelland said. “I was like, ‘I’m Dad. I’m supposed to be here.’ And he said, ‘But you’re never home.’ That just hits you right that.

“You put so many hours in outside of the school day that it makes it really, really hard on your family and your time with your family, too. As an athletic director, that’s part of it, and I knew that going in and I accepted that. As much as I hated being away and missing family things, I didn’t want to miss high school athletics. It’s a tough balance.”

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