CHARLOTTESVILLE — Technically, Joe Paxton is allotted approximately 25 minutes during a typical school day to pursue his sports historian passion. In reality, though, the Eastern Hancock Middle School teacher actually commits more off-the-clock hours than he can track.
When Paxton’s kids go to sleep at night, the 38-year-old Greenfield-Central graduate boots up and plugs in, researching, compiling, scanning photos and building the most comprehensive Eastern Hancock sports archive in school history.
Initially, Paxton spearheaded the construction of EHAthletics.org, hosted by Google, a few years ago. Today, the self-made webmaster has assembled an in-depth database — a place where sports facts, statistics and trivia question answers live.
Story continues below gallery
What was Eastern Hancock’s varsity baseball team’s record in 1975-76? A quick click on the “EH Sports History” link whisks users directly toward a response: 11-15 under head coach Mike Fields.
“It’s really fantastic. Joe has put in countless hours, way more than his job title,” Eastern Hancock athletics director Aaron Spaulding remarked on Paxton’s labor. “Our athletics portion of our site is really good, and he’s done virtually all of that.”
On the site, Royals’ fans can find several present-day pertinent details such as team schedules, booster club activities, contact information and the athletic office’s Twitter feed, among other interactive tidbits.
Paxton, however, felt there needed to be more — beyond even the mobile app he designed for the website last year.
His interest in sports history led him, along with Michael Gaylan, to dig through yearbook archives at the Hancock Public Library, Newspapers.com and other resources to map out the past.
“Some of it was provided by Greg Hall and Chad Coughenour, our varsity baseball coach. They had done a little bit on the boys basketball side of the history. They passed it along to me, and I kind of took it and ran with it, trying to find some old stats,” Paxton said. “I just started researching and tried to find that information. For boys basketball, it was probably around a span of three or four years of looking at things.”
While Paxton, the Royals’ freshman boys basketball coach of nine years, focused on hoops, Gaylan, a varsity assistant football coach, tackled the gridiron. Last summer, Paxton posted his basketball findings online as Gaylan continued his research.
Paxton didn’t consider expanding the archive to include the other sports until this past spring.
“This year during spring our middle school boys track team won the county. A lot of people asked, when the last time was when we did that? It was a big deal because it’s not something that happens all the time. I thought it was interesting that we couldn’t find that information. No one was 100 percent sure,” Paxton said. “That led me to the idea that we need to get something out there with the history of each sport.”
This summer, Paxton investigated nearly every Eastern Hancock sport, from high school to middle school, with his library card in hand.
“He’s gone to the library and gone through microfiche,” Spaulding said. “Joe and Michael have done a lot of leg work. It’s something that Joe really enjoys doing.”
A Purdue University graduate, Paxton graduated from Greenfield-Central in 1996 and earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary physical education at West Lafayette with a computer endorsement. His interest in technology never waned as he began teaching and coaching at Eastern Hancock, including stints as the high school girls junior varsity and varsity basketball coach more than 10 years ago.
“I’ve always been a technology kind of a person, so it’s always been a big interest of mine,” Paxton said. “A lot of the website stuff is self-taught. I didn’t take any classes. It was mostly trial and error and playing around with the technology.”
Despite being a novice, the website Paxton put together for the athletic office is professional grade, Spaudling said. The information it now hosts is unprecedented.
“I wanted it to be something where we could look back and either find some quick information or a complete history,” Paxton said. “I just wanted to have something because there wasn’t a lot available as far as historical information of the athletics programs. It’s pretty easy to add to if needed.”
An on-going endeavor, Paxton remarked, most of the website’s sports history PDF documents are accompanied with a “Help Needed” introduction letter.
“This Eastern Hancock sports history project is a work in progress. There is A LOT of missing information that is not included. Most of this information came from only what the school yearbook provided. This is a starting point to try to have the most complete history of the sport as possible…,” the letter states.
Paxton is always looking to “fill in the gaps” and seeking information from former coaches and the community, which both have steadily contributed since he launched both the sports history and school records links.
“The hardest part in the most recent stuff I’ve been working on is finding those all-conference listings because they weren’t in (the newspaper) at a consistent time,” Paxton said. “All-county you can narrow it down, but all-conference was the hardest ones to find. I have gotten quite a few responses.”
The collection is also transferable, which was vital, Paxton emphasized. In the future, the website might need to be moved off of Google’s free platform, Spaulding said, and rebuilt using a new provider. Paxton, who has archived his extensive data is confident the information will be available regardless of what might transpire in the coming years.
“That was part of the reason I did this because eventually, we’re going to have to switch our website over to something different. I wanted to have the history organized when we do move to something new,” Paxton said. “The goal this year was to have it up and sitting there and hopefully people will send in updates and help improve it this year. Then next year, possibly getting it printed out and in a binder that will be in the athletic office for reference.”