Scholastic readers ready to step down

Debbie Appleman and Suz Price will be ending their reigns as the only two female high school athletic directors in the Mirror’s coverage region at the conclusion of this school year.

Both Price, who has been the athletic director at Juniata Valley Area High School for the past 17 years, and Appleman, who has served in the same capacity at Williamsburg Area High School for the last 13 years, know that their time has arrived.

But both will miss the job that has become part of the fabric of their lives, and both will miss it for the same reason – the coaches, school personnel, young athletes and fellow athletic directors with which the professsion has allowed their lives to intersect.

“I’ve met so many fine people through athletics in the past 13 years,” said Appleman, 65, a 1966 graduate of Williamsburg who also served as a teacher in the school’s elementary system for 34 years. “I’ve enjoyed watching our athletes develop from the junior high to senior high levels, and I’ve enjoyed working with so many good coaches, PIAA officials, booster groups, secretaries and maintenance people. I’m also grateful for having had the opportunity to work with many excellent athletic directors in our Inter-County Conference. What I will miss most is the relationships I’ve had with all these special people.”

So will Price, 62, a 1969 graduate of Juniata Valley who has worn many hats at her high school alma mater. A retired mathematics teacher who served in the classroom for 30 years, Price will continue on in her role as the school’s girls track and field coach – a position she has now held for 37 years. Price also was formerly the long-time head coach of Valley’s boys track and girls varsity basketball teams.

“I will miss the people,” Price said of wrapping up her career as an athletic director. “My administrators have been awesome, and so have the other athletic directors in our conference. I’ll miss the coaches, athletes and officials. The number of people whose lives this job enables you to touch is unreal. I work with the greatest people in the world.”

Both Price and Appleman come from athletic backgrounds. Price’s husband, Don, has been an assistant football and baseball coach at Juniata Valley for many years. Suz Price was also an outstanding softball player from 1975 to 1996 on a State College-area traveling team that achieved national acclaim.

“I love all sports,” said Price, an avid golfer who will be inducted into the Huntingdon County Sports Hall of Fame June 14. “Any [sports activity] that came down the pike, I tried to get involved in.”

Appleman is married to former long-time Williamsburg boys and girls basketball coach Don Appelman. Their son, Christian, was a multiple-sport standout at Williamsburg who went on to play basketball and tennis at Penn State. Christian Appleman now lives in Connecticut with his wife, Erin, who is the head women’s volleyball coach at Yale University.

“I’ve always been interested in athletics,” said Debbie Appleman, a 1971 graduate of Penn State. “As a teenager, I was a tomboy – I played baseball, softball, tennis. When the athletic director job came open here, it was kind of a good fit for me.”

The job has tremendous perks, but it’s also demanding and time-consuming. Debbie Appleman cited a desire to travel the country with her husband and spend more time in Connecticut with their son and his family – which includes grandson Justin, 13, and granddaughter Emma, 11 – as big factors in her decision to leave the AD post.

“There are so many aspects of this job that I really like doing, but it’s also very demanding of my time and energy,” Debbie Appleman said. “After Donny quit coaching and freed up some of his time, we decided we would love to do some traveling and see our two delightful grandchildren compete in athletics some more.”

Both Price and Debbie Appleman said they never felt out of place in a male-dominated professional field.

“The men I’ve worked with, and the athletic directors in our league, have always been so respectful and helpful,” Price said. “None of them treated us any differently.”

Price – a 1973 graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania – said that it will be nice next spring to concentrate solely on her track coaching duties.

“I’ve been getting kind of tired getting phone calls when I’m at the golf course or at Raystown Lake,” Price said. “I decided it was time for me to enjoy life with my family – [the Prices have a grown son, Tony, who works as an assistant superintendent at a golf course in upstate New York] – and maybe do a little more traveling with my husband. It will also be a nice feeling to get on the bus with the track team next year and not have to worry about having to reschedule baseball and softball games any more.”

Though rescheduling sporting events because of inclement weather posed one of the bigger challenges for both athletic directors, it was a task, like all others, that they performed well.

Fellow Inter-County Conference athletic director John Hayes has been the AD at Bellwood-Antis for the past 34 years, and has long respected the professionalism of both Price and Debbie Appelman.

“We’ve cooperated on many issues over the years where we’ve changed playing dates and tried to help each other out,” Hayes said. “They’ve both been very cordial and cooperative in all of our dealings.”

Debbie Appleman learned the ropes of the athletic director’s position from Don Appelman, who had formerly held the AD job for many years at Williamsburg.

“I helped her a little bit at first, but as time went on, she basically did everything – from ticket sales, to game management, to contacting officials for the events, to balancing the budget,” he said. “I really admire her. She’s extremely conscientious, she pays attention to details, and she does a great job.”

Williamsburg football coach Bob Hearn agreed.

“She has really worked tirelessly for all the sports at Williamsburg,” Hearn said. “She’s really committed to the school and did a great job of making sure that everything was done first-class.”

Perhaps the fact that both Debbie Appleman and Price have been working at a job they love, for schools that they love, has much to do with that.

“I’ll always be a Blue Pirate fan, and I’ll be willing to help the future athletic director here in any way if I am asked,” Debbie Appleman said.

So will Price at Juniata Valley.

“I will always be willing to help whoever comes in, because I want to see the school be successful,” Price said. “I love the Valley. My heart is with the Valley.”