When Eric Holm takes a trip down memory lane, covering his last 15 years at the activities director at Truman High School, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
During his tenure, football and baseball stadiums and a new gymnasium were added on-site at Truman. He has overseen the addition of a new band room, several classrooms, an updated cafeteria, weight room and a remodeled front lobby and front facade of the school.
He was there for the short-lived Volleyball on The Square series that featured Independence teams playing outdoors on the Square in a wildly popular event.
“Those are all so important, and were so much fun to watch develop and become a reality,” said Holm, a 1977 Truman graduate who took over from former AD Gary Bressman in 2004. “But of everything that has happened over the past 15 years, one thing that I am so proud of is our Hall of Fame. I love to honor the students who really made an impact at our high school.
“I’ll really miss meeting with our Hall of Fame committee of former Truman coaches and giving tours of the school to our Hall of Famers, many of whom are returning to Truman for the first time since they graduated.”
And when Holm throws a Hall of Fame party, he does it right.
“It’s one of the most special events I’ve been to,” said Paige Parker, two-time Oklahoma Sooner NCAA softball national champion, three-time Missouri Gatorade Pitcher of the Year when she took the mound for the Patriots and a member of the Hall of Fame class of 2018. “It’s just so much fun to come back and see all the changes at Truman. That’s what everyone is talking about – the new gym, the new entryway, all the great things that are happening here.”
And Holm, the 2018 Missouri State High School Athletic Administrators Kansas City District Athletic Director of the Year, refuses to take credit for any of the renovations during his tenure.
“Do you remember the conversation between Ben Kingsley (Itzak Stern) and Liam Neeson (Oskar Schindler) in ‘Schindler’s List,’ where Kingsley congratulates Schindler for saving 1,100 or 1,200 people from getting executed,” Holm asked. “And Schindler says, ‘I could have saved more – I could have saved more.’
“I feel like I could have done more here at Truman, although I am extremely proud of what we accomplished along with everyone associated with the Independence School District. I have worked with some wonderful people, and want to thank all of them.”
Independence School District Superintendent Dale Herl said he will miss working with Holm.
“Eric has been the consummate professional during his time at Truman,” Herl said. “He takes a lot of pride in Patriot activities and is a great ambassador for Truman High School. We’re going to miss Eric.”
Greg McGhee, activities director at crosstown rival William Chrisman, said it was Holm who helped him ease into his new position at the high school.
“Eric is great to work with,” McGhee said. “He is a walking rule book. He knows the rules inside and out, so anytime I had a question he was always willing to help. Eric is a great colleague, but an even better individual. I am going to miss him.”
In pure Eric Holm fashion, he made sure his predecessor at Truman would feel comfortable by passing him a baton – and yes, Holm actually presented Daniel Bieser with a baton.
The passing of the ceremonial baton took place when Bieser, the assistant principal and activities director at George Caleb Bingham Middle School, was in his office.
“When I heard that the board OK’d Daniel, I dug around and found an old, beat-up baton,” said Holm. “I went over to Bingham the next morning and passed the baton to Daniel. It was a special moment for me, and I hope it was special for Daniel.”
It goes without saying that Bieser enjoyed the ceremonial passing of the torch – er, baton.
“That was so special,” said Bieser, who has been at Bingham the past two years after serving as a math teacher and head boys basketball coach at Van Horn High School the previous seven years. “The administration knew that I had accepted the job at Truman, but the students and many of the teachers didn’t know, so I asked Eric to come into my office.
“He had the baton under his jacket and handed it to me. It was literally the passing of the baton, and figuratively the passing of the baton and that gesture meant so much to me.
“I know I have some very big shoes to fill, because Eric did so much more than just serve as an activities director. When people thought of Truman High School, they thought of Eric. He is just the best.”
Under Holm’s watch, the boys basketball team made the state final four in 2007-08 and the softball team won a state championship in 2012. Division I standouts like Parker and University of Minnesota volleyball star Lexi Hart all played at Truman while Holm was the AD, but once again, he passes the accolades – the baton, of sorts – to others.
“I want to thank coaches, administrators, officials, volunteers and parents that have helped me and our kids along the way,” said Holm, who was a standout athlete at Truman. “I give a lot of credit to Gary Bressman, who was my predecessor, for his help. Then there was John Spotts. He’s retired but he was the district activities director for the North Kansas City School District. He was a guy I used to call a lot.
“There also was Dan Ogle, who was at Chrisman; and Mark Bubalo, who is at Blue Springs (School District); and Tom Kruse at (Raymore-Peculiar). Those were guys I could lean on.
“I just hope that over the past 15 years, our kids have been able to enjoy many great experiences and have enjoyed the opportunity to participate in so many activities and represent Truman High School.”
When asked if he had experienced that moment when he realized it was all coming to an end, he grinned.
“I’ve had a couple,” he said. “One came at graduation, where retirees are allowed to walk with the graduates and that was as powerful as anything I experienced over the past 15 years.
“Then, on my last day of bus duty, a mom, who I did not know, thanked me for working during bus duty. I don’t know if she knew it was my last day, but that really had an impact on me.
“And then, my final event – our district soccer game at Fort Osage. Ryan Schartz (the Fort Osage activities director) was so gracious, and after the game it was just me and (soccer coach) Manny Tovar.
“I drove to Kirksville to interview Manny for our coaching job, and I had coached there 17 years before that – and here we were, our last match together and that was the perfect way for it to come to an end for me.”