The mangled piece of aluminum in the corner of Steve Hogen’s office illustrates just how bad off he was less than a year ago.
The top tube of the black Trek bike is snapped off near the seat tube to match the three vertebrae in his neck that were broken and the disfigured rear tire represents the left leg that needed a skin graft to repair the damage done on May 14, 2016 when he was the victim of a hit-and-run at the intersection of Brown and Lindsay roads while out on 30-mile bike ride.
It’s also a reminder of why Hogen is still going strong as Mesa Public Schools athletic director in a time when coaches and ADs have shorter tenures than ever before.
“My wife, Cindy, said to me during my time away, ‘You miss your coaches and ADs, don’t you?’” Hogen said. “I really did. I still love what I do. Mesa is the biggest and best school district in the state. I love being part of it.
“I realized how much I really do respect and like being part of what we did. So, if there is a lesson there it is to appreciate the people you interact with on a daily basis. It truly was a blessing in disguise.”
Hogen, 58, has been a mainstay for Mesa schools for 18 years as the district AD, but before that he was a teacher and coach at Red Mountain High School and has been around the East Valley since playing basketball at McClintock High School where he was a 1977 graduate.
Hogen is well-regarded in the high school and athletic community, and if he had any doubt that changed after the accident with the visitors, calls, texts and cards he received. He is one of those people who always finds the good in things while being honest and thoughtful.
“Dr. Hogen is approachable and he treats his coaches in the district like his team,” Mesa wrestling coach David DiDomenico said. “Dr. Hogen is proactive with all of Mesa District sports both internally as well as promotional outside the district.”
The accident gave Hogen, who switched to mountain biking rather than road cycling since recovering, a change of perspective, made up his mind about reaching out to someone in need and gave a little insight to some things he didn’t know about himself.
He doesn’t fret over little things anymore, knowing some issues aren’t all that important in the big picture and he doesn’t hesitate to reach out when before he wondered if it was the right thing to do.
“I can tell you from experience when you are laying in a hospital bed every person who makes an effort to let you know they are thinking about you is very much appreciated,” Hogen said. “You sit there and you wonder if you should call or is a text too impersonal, etc. Let me tell you every visit, call or text, mattered. Don’t let that time pass. Reach out. It makes a difference.”
During his rehab time and before he got back to his Mesa office, Hogen had a chance to meet up with some people – like Kevin English, his basketball coach at McClintock – and it helped him get through the tedious process of regaining full strength.
“We had been in contact but after the accident there was a lot of texting and visits,” Hogen said of reconnecting with English. “He was back to being my coach again. Once a coach always a coach. It was pretty neat.”
As Hogen wraps up his 18th year as the Mesa Public Schools AD, he knows there is work still to be done as the Arizona Interscholastic Association and high school sports enters a new era with new bylaws (year-round practice) and hurdles (transfer rule, open enrollment) ahead.
“It’s not without its challenges, certainly,” he said. “There is some new direction and influences in high school sports. Hopefully, we can work it all out.”
It certainly has for Hogen considering about 350 days ago, he was as mangled as his bike; laying on the side of the road bleeding, in pain and uncertain of what happened or what his life was going to be like from that day forward.
“Some bad things happen,” he said. “As they say, ‘crap happens.’ You still control how you react and how you are going to bounce back. I try to be positive and do the best I can.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a freelance reporter for MyNewsMesa.com.