As Mike Archer grew up in Lincoln during the early 1980s, he wasn’t one of those kids who struggled with what they wanted to do with their lives.
“I knew from a very, very early age, probably middle school, that I wanted to teach and coach,” he said. “I just had such good relationships with teachers growing up that I thought what a great way to live and work. For me that never wavered.”
Now 50, Archer has spent the past 18 years as athletic director at Orono High School. He recently received two top awards for his work at the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association’s annual spring conference in Rockport.
Both honors, one national and the second a statewide recognition, had a personal connection.
The State Award of Merit, awarded by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, was presented to Archer by his oldest son Cameron, who is an athletic administrator at SeDoMoCha Middle School in Dover-Foxcroft.
“To have my son have the opportunity to present that to me was pretty special,” Archer said. “It was totally unexpected.”
Archer also received the MIAAA’s Robert Lahey Athletic Administrator of the Year award, an honor named for the late Old Town High School athletic administrator whom its latest recipient knew.
“I substitute taught at Old Town when I was a senior at the University of Maine and got to meet him,” Archer said. “Bob always had time to talk with me. Just to be mentioned in the same sentence with him is an honor.”
Archer has served on numerous state and regional committees during his tenure at Orono and perhaps is best known for his efforts in support of the Little Ten Conference football league.
“When we work across the region we’re doing what’s in the best interest of kids,” he said. “Sometimes those decisions may not be the most popular ones, but we’re trying to do what’s best for everyone, and hopefully we’re accomplishing that a whole lot more than not.”
Archer also has been instrumental in developing the school’s athletic hall of fame and overseeing an Orono athletic program that involves more than 50 percent of the student population during a given sports season and some 80 percent playing at least one sport during the school year.
“There are times when between athletics and math team and show choir and drama and music and everything we offer that we’re probably guilty of pulling kids in too many directions,” he said, “but we certainly understand what the benefits are and we feel like the atmosphere and environment in our school is better because our kids are so involved.”
Archer cited two primary changes in the regional athletic scene since he first became an athletic administrator, one involving the advent of social media.
“It’s certainly made things more efficient and quicker,” he said. “I can remember the days when if we had to cancel an event it meant anywhere between 15 and 20 phone calls. Now it’s just a tweet, a quick text or a mass email that does the same thing.
“In the same breath that I say how social media has made things more efficient, certainly it has reduced the face-to-face talk, the meaningful discussions you have to have in order to be an effective communicator and leader, so in that respect I don’t know if it’s an advantage.”
One other evolving trend is the shift toward more sport specialization among some student-athletes.
“We’re fortunate we have a high percentage rate with kids involved in activities, but over time the athletes have specialized a little more than when I was in school and I think that’s changed the overall dynamic of high school sports,” he said.
One thing that hasn’t changed, Archer said, is the motivation of today’s athletic administrators.
“We have a love for athletics, but more than that we have a love for working with people and influencing and impacting young people,” he said. “It’s a very unique and special opportunity.”
Archer said his recognition reflects the support of literally thousands of people he has worked with during his career.
“This job cannot be done by just one person,” he said. “It’s the parents, it’s the athletes, it’s the coaches. I don’t lose sight of that, and I know how fortunate I am to be where I am and fortunate that they’ve wanted me to stay for this long. I’m hoping they’ll tolerate me for 11 more years.”