COLUMBIA — At Cape Central High School in Cape Girardeau, Matthew Hale has become something of an expert at transitions.
Currently, Hale teaches a class for high school freshmen designed to help them acclimate to their new school and stay on track for graduation.
This fall, he will put his experience to use when he moves to Columbia to begin building the athletics department for the new Battle High School.
Hale is currently the head track coach at Cape Central and previously served as the athletics director of Scott County R-IV School District in Benton. He was named athletics director and assistant principal of Battle on Feb. 6.
Hale, who has spent the majority of his life in southeast Missouri, said he is eager to begin meeting with the future students and parents of Battle.
"One of my biggest goals is to start building these relationships because I'm not from the area," he said. "We need to build excitement for the school."
Hale, a father of four, said he has been preparing his family to move to Columbia, a town that is much larger than their current home of Jackson.
"The more we talk about it, the more excited they get," he said of his children.
While Hale said he is nervous about the new position, he is more excited about the opportunity to build a program from scratch.
"Anytime you do something new, there's always going to be some apprehension or some anxiety, but it's a good nervousness," he said.
The school has already tapped Rock Bridge assistant football coach Justin Conyers as its head football coach and is currently accepting applications for coaches of both basketball teams.
Battle principal Kim Presko said she hopes to have all athletics personnel in place by the end of the year and will arrange for teams to practice in alternate facilities during summer 2013.
Hale said he isn't sure how the school's athletic teams, which will be called the Spartans, will fare in the first few years.
"I think there's always going to be a transition period," he said. "As far as being competitive right away, that's going to be up in the air."
Off the field, Hale said he envisions Battle's student-athletes being involved in the community.
Because he will also hold the position of assistant principal, Hale says he's excited to be involved with both academics and athletics.
While his position will be purely administrative, he said he hopes to connect with students across the athletics department. He said his experience as a coach will guide him in his work at Battle.
"I'm of the firm opinion that coaching is basically teaching," he said. "Athletics just use the playing field as a classroom."
Presko said she chose Hale from 40 applicants because of his background as both a coach and administrator. She also cited his student-centered attitude as a main reason for his hiring.
"He's coming from a college town, he works in a diverse school and has all the things we're looking for," she said.
Battle will open in fall 2013. The school will have facilities for all sports except swimming, which will practice at Hickman High School.