Hibner steps down as MHS softball coach

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Perry Hibner (center) resigned as Middleton's girls softball coach last week./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Four weeks ago, Middleton’s girls softball team had its season end after a loss at Onalaska in the regional finals.

Cardinals manager Perry Hibner — as enthusiastic, passionate and detailed of a coach as you’ll find — immediately turned the page to what could be a big 2020 season. Unfortunately for Hibner, he won’t be along for the ride.

Hibner also serves as the Director of Communications for the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District. And on June 13, Hibner’s bosses asked him to step down as the girls’ softball coach to spend more time helping with several projects and personnel changes in the district.

Hibner, the Cardinals’ skipper the last four seasons, was certainly caught off guard.

“I’m still down about it now,” Hibner said Tuesday morning, while driving to Wisconsin Dells to watch one of his former players compete in an all-star game. “But I need to do what’s best for the district, and if my bosses say this is what’s best, that’s what I’ll do.”

Middleton superintendent George Mavroulis is retiring on June 30. He will be replaced by Dr. Dana Monogue, who was the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning in the Elmbrook School District since 2012.

The district has new principals at both Middleton High School and Kromrey Middle School. The district also broke ground last week on a new elementary school adjacent to Pope Farm Conservancy.

All the changes have added to the demands of Hibner’s already-demanding job, which led his bosses asking him to step away from softball.

“I love coaching. I love the kids, even during the toughest parts of the job,” Hibner said. “My plan was to coach two to four more years, or as long as I could keep going.”

Middleton athletic director Bob Joers said losing Hibner won't be easy.

"Perry has and will continue to put pieces in place to help our softball program be successful now and in the future," Joers said. "He has put in tireless hours, which we are thankful for. He has left his mark on the program."

Hibner’s work day would often run from 5 a.m. until mid-afternoon. He’d leave for either softball practice or games, then return to any unfinished business later that night.

Hibner is largely a one-man band, though, inside the Communications Department. So his bosses were worried who would handle things if Hibner was at softball and a major situation developed.

“The hard thing was if I had to get on the bus for a game or get ready for a home game, I’d leave the office at 2- or 3 o’clock,” Hibner said. “If I was at softball, I couldn't be involved 24-7-365 and my job often requires that commitment."

Hibner, who took over the program in 2016, had a solid run.

Middleton went 40-32 in the Big Eight during that time and 55-50 overall. The Cardinals’ best season came in 2017, when they went 12-4 in the Big Eight and finished in a tie for third place.

This year, Middleton went 9-9 in the conference and 13-12 overall. But with a good deal of young talent and athleticism, the Cardinals’ future appears bright.

“I think the big thing I did was bring continuity and stability to the program,” Hibner said. “They had three coaches in the previous five years, and that’s one thing I feel was taken care of.”

Hibner, a sports junkie with a background in print journalism, knew he’d love coaching softball when he took over the program. But even Hibner himself was surprised just how much he enjoyed it.

“I just loved working with the kids,” Hibner said. “It’s not always easy working with teenage girls, but watching them grow, listen and improve was really rewarding.

“And even though you’re often judged strictly on wins and losses, I thought we were always competitive, worked hard, improved. It was really a blast.”

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