By Patrick Hadfield
Canalside Chronicles Staff
Free time leads to boredom, and boredom can lead to young kids making the wrong choices in life. This philosophy is one that John Hogan has used to guide his path through life. For the better part of the past century, Hogan has been using a childhood love of his to teach kids valuable life lessons.
As of today, Hogan is a professor at The College at Brockport in the physical education department. With a lifetime of teaching behind him, he relishes in his current position with the college.
“I get to talk about sports and be around kids at one of the most important times of their young lives,” he says through his beaming smile. 17 years into his stint with the college and he is just as excited as the day he started.
Nearly 20 years of teaching may seem like a full career to most. However, for the past 39 years Hogan has served as an educator in the Monroe County area. In this decorated career he has spent 19 years at Brockport High School as a physical education teacher. For 17 of those 19 years he served as the head of the physical education department. Also, he spent three years as the athletic director for the Holley school district before his current tenure with the college.
If Hogan’s adult life was only summed up by a 39 year stint in education it could be said that this is a wonderful use of a career and life. But in addition to those 39 years of teaching, John Hogan served as a coach of multiple different youth sports for another decade. These sports include Junior Varsity as well as Varsity tennis, soccer, and basketball, and girls’ tennis and soccer. In addition to this, he also runs a youth basketball camp along with his longtime friend, and former varsity coach, Charlie Hage.
“Coaching was definitely where I felt I had the biggest impact on kids” says a smiling Hogan as he reflects on his career. However, perhaps the most remarkable story in Hogan’s 49 years in education and coaching comes from a child that he had never coached.
Mark Zagata was a football player and “the proverbial gym rat” according to Hogan. However, Zagata would tragically lose his leg to bone cancer going into his senior year of high school and what would be his last high school football season. Shortly after the procedure to remove his limb, Zagata sought out the guidance of Hogan. Zagata had only one question for Hogan, asking if he could play football. The question caught even Hogan off guard. Before long, a then young Hogan went to the office of the athletic director of the Brockport school district. Zagata not only played his senior year, but he made the All Greater Rochester team that year on a prosthetic leg as he willed the team to a winning campaign.
“He said ‘you always tell us we can do anything we set our mind to, well I set my mind to this,’” remembers Coach Hogan about the conversation between himself and Zagata. Shortly after, in a cruel turn of events, the cancer would return and claim the life of young Mark at the age of 20.
“After that I made it my mission in life to get a weight room named after him.” exclaimed Hogan. Shortly after Zagata’s death, the Mark Zagata Weight Room and Fitness Centre was opened in Mark’s honor.
“I still think about Mark periodically, and it reminds me to do something nice for someone everyday,” Hogan says as he finishes his powerful story.
In 49 years of service to his community, John Hogan has impacted countless young lives for the better. His future with his basketball camp and teaching position at The College at Brockport looks bright.
Reflecting on the future Hogan jokingly says, “Well I always say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s pretty safe to assume that for the foreseeable future John Hogan doesn’t plan on going anywhere.