From the Sports Editor: Bursler putting ‘pedal to the metal’ in move to Philly

 

Tom Bursler will be taking on a new challenge in Philadelphia. (Submitted photo)

Tom Bursler has always been a little bit crazy.

But in a good way.

The Dover resident, who’s taught and coached in both the Lake Forest and Capital School districts, has always been that guy looking for his next big challenge.

So when Bursler tells people about his new adventure — leaving the relative quiet of Kent County for the demanding world of inner-city Philadelphia — friends question the 54-year-old’s sanity again.

“That’s the initial reaction,” said Bursler. “They go, ‘Wow’ — that’s the face I get. But then, seconds into the conversation, I get this feeling that, ‘Well, if anybody was going to do this, it was going to be him.’”

Indeed. How many other people would leave Lake Forest’s Chipman Middle School, where he’s coached some baseball and cross country, to take a job as a special-ed teacher at Philadelphia’s John Bartram High?

At an age when many people are starting to at least ponder the idea of retirement, Bursler is going to take on a 77-mile commute into the big city.

And Bursler, who eventually plans to move to Philadelphia, doesn’t just expect to be challenged by his new job, he genuinely wants to be challenged.

“I want to go where I think at 7 in the evening, somebody could give me a call and say, ‘Hey, Mr. Bursler, we need you over here now,’” said Bursler. “‘Johnny’s in this kind of trouble.’ Or, ‘Hey, can you come help me fix a flat tire?’ or ‘There’s a ballgame this afternoon. Can you umpire it?’ What I love about teaching and coaching both is that I get to be part of a community.

“The real truth of the matter is that, as time ticks away, everything has an expiration date on it. I’ve got 10 years probably of this left. I want it to be 10 years of excitement, pedal to the metal, helping out these kids.”

A former assistant baseball coach at Dover High who also did his share of volunteering at Dover Little League, Bursler wants to coach at Bartram, too. He just hasn’t lined anything up yet.

But he’s willing to do anything. In his 20 years in Kent County, he’s directed traffic and been the PA announcer at school sporting events, as well as coaching and officiating.

“My email (to Bartram) was, ‘If you’ve got competitive tiddlywinks, I’ll do that,’” Bursler joked. “If you want me to bring the water out on the field, that’s what I’ll do. The reason I’ve always done this is because my (special ed) kids sometimes feel ostracized. But when they see Bursler out there, they’re more likely to be involved.”

As excited as he is about Bartram, Bursler knows he’ll miss Dover.

This is the place where he and his wife, Kim, raised their two kids, Jessica and Matt. He has a lot of great memories.

“When you give Dover a little bit,” said Bursler, “it gives you back an awful lot.”

Getting to to know you

The main ideas behind the DIAA’s Student Leadership Conference haven’t changed much in 14 years.

But the Delaware student-athletes taking part in the event change every year.

So, for Tommie Neubauer, that means the event itself is constantly evolving.

“Every year it’s a different group, a different chemistry,” said Neubauer, the executive director of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association.

“You can ask the same question 12 years in a row and get 15 different answers.”

So there’s no telling what the 34 student-athletes gathered at Lewes’ Virdin Center this weekend will take from the experience.

They are kids who have been identified as some of the top athletic leaders in their school — student-athletes who not only play a couple sports but who do well in the classroom.

After hearing several speakers, as well as taking part in various activities — including working with Special Olympic athletes at Camp Barnes — the hope is that they’ll come away with a better understanding of how they can have an impact on the world.

And getting to know kids from other schools is part of the experience.

“It’s amazing how many kids know each other’s names,” said Neubauer. “But now they get to talk to one another. It’s really neat to see, an AD will say, in a big rivalry, two kids went to Student Leadership so before the game they were out there on the field shaking hands.

“It’s almost like, every year, the bar gets put up higher,” he added. “It just seems like every year there’s something new and different that you walk away and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t think that would ever happen.”

World Series memories

Not surprisingly, there’s a lot more to the Senior League Softball World Series than just what happens on the field.

The annual tournament concludes today at Lower Sussex Little League with the championship game at 2 p.m.

In a Sussex Post story, tournament director Martin Donovan told writer Glenn Rolfe about the year one foreign team arrived with worn-out equipment.

“They had no shoes,” said Donovan. “Everything was worn. We threw out all their helmets. We had some helmets here we gave them.

“The Good Ole Boy Foundation stepped up and bought them gloves, bought them shoes. To those kids, it was Christmas all over.”

Last year, said Donovan, the teams from Canada and Czechoslovakia struck up a friendship.

“They have communicated over this past year,” he said. “The Czech team has invited them to play in a tournament in Czechoslovakia. They raised the money and they are going.”

Odds & ends

•The 52nd annual Delaware Open golf tournament will be held on Monday and Tuesday at Bear Trap Dunes CC in Ocean View. The 54-hole tourney will finish with two rounds on Tuesday.

Wild Quail’s Jay Whitby is among the top contenders. Whitby won the Open in 2013 and has taken the last three Delaware Amateurs.

•Former Sussex Tech High running back Kani Kane has joined the Delaware football program. A 2,000-yarder rusher for the Ravens, he spent the last two seasons at Lackawanna (Pa.) College.

Delaware State offensive lineman Chuka Ezeuzoh is also now a Blue Hen. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Concord High grad, who started 10 of 11 games last season for the Hornets, will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out this fall.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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