By PEDRO VELAZCO Kokomo Tribune
---- — Dawn has yet to crack on the new high school sports seasons. Girls golf begins practice Aug. 2 with the other sports begin following on Aug. 5. Girls golf matches begin Aug. 5 and the other sports begin games the week of Aug. 19.
Athletic departments on the other hand wake well before that dawn. Athletic administrators at local schools have been busy all summer moving through small mountains of paperwork, preparing fields, buildings and schedules, going through physical forms, budgets, and arranging workers and officials.
The payoff begins next month when all the color and passion of high school sports will swirl on fields and in gyms.
Below are looks at the Howard County schools as they gear up for the fall season. The Tribune was unable to reach Taylor.
At Greentown, Eastern’s athletes are shooting to be competitive across the board this fall.
“I’m always looking forward to getting the sports started, getting the kids on the practice field,” Eastern AD Brad Wilson said. “You’re always wondering how hard did they work in the offseason, and how much improvement have they made from a year ago?
“I’ve always said we’re a small school playing in a big conference. You just don’t know where you’re going to fit in yet. It’s going to take a little time. You’d like to see all your sports be successful. A lot of times that’s not going to be the case. We lost a lot of our girls cross country team [to graduation] so it’s hard to know where that’s going to go, how that’s going to bounce back.
“Every year you lose seniors and want to see who is the next person up.”
Some of Eastern’s athletes are adjusting to new coaches for the upcoming school year, including new girls soccer coach Chris Rees and new volleyball coach Missy Mavrick this fall as well as new hoops coaches Mike Springer and Justin Coomer.
“I feel good about the coaches that I’ve hired for the upcoming school year. They’re working real hard and they’re logging a lot of time with the kids. From what I’ve seen the kids are really responsive to the coaches. I’m happy about all four of them.”
Wilson likes to have a lot of interaction with his coaches over the summer and is happy with a key element so far this summer.
“Any more, to be successful, the kids have to respect the coaches, and the coaches have to put forth the effort, and so far I’ve seen all of that,” he said.
• One of the top items on Wilson’s to-do list at this point is finding a junior varsity volleyball coach.
The Wildkats hope to see improvements on and off the field pay off for fans.
“We’re very excited about our incoming classes and we’ve had a lot of teams that have had very successful summer programs and summer camps,” Kokomo AD Jason Snyder said. “I think we’ll have some successful seasons in the fall and winter, especially with those groups that have been playing a lot in the summer.
“We’ve also had a real nice upgrade to the facilities, had great support with our administration. They’ve done a lot of work on upgrading all our facilities. The ones we’ll be seeing soon are in the fall with the football field and the addition of new restrooms, concession stand and new locker room on the west side of our facility. It ties into some of the upgrades from last year.”
Snyder also is enthused about some leadership programs that are getting off the ground, and the work coaches have done in getting athletes involved in community service.
The Kat AD hopes to see the summer work pay off, putting Wildkat squads in position to succeed in the North Central Conference.
“We want to continue to make a run at all-conference trophies,” Snyder said. “Our boys made a great run last year and our girls were much improved in the all-conference standings. That’s something that’s always important and I think we’re going to have a great start here with our fall season.
“We also did an excellent job last year with sectional championships and that’s something we think we can continue, to be strong in the state tournaments as well.”
• Kokomo’s top coaching priority is to find someone to take over as JV volleyball coach.
A busy offseason of teams together several days a week, and teams traveling to play in tournaments will soon find the Purple Tigers tested in games that count as fall begins.
“I’m always positive with what we’ve got because we’ve got good, quality coaches and quality kids who work hard all summer,” NW AD Dan Armstrong said. “I’m excited to see what the summer activity is bringing. The attitude of our kids is great.
“There’s not a coach hanging their head, they’re all excited about what they’ve seen.”
The biggest changes surround the adjustments of new coaches, who have to get their feet wet.
“I’ve got two brand new coaches in girls sports. You’re working with those coaches. I’m looking forward to see what they’ve got,” Armstrong said of volleyball coach Trina Yager, who moved up to the JV, and Samantha Elkins, a Kokomo graduate taking over the girls soccer program. “I’m not concerned. I think we’ve got it going on.”
Armstrong is confident that the coaches in all the Tiger sports are on the same page.
“The hopes are that our coaches do what we ask them to do, which is build great young people first, and secondly you hope that the kids, by our coaches doing that, are successful and feel good.
“Everybody we have in place as a coach, whether they be a veteran coach or brand new, have those values. ... [I] hope the kids have a great experience and that they are better off because they played that sport.”
• The Tigers have most needs for the fall filled but need to find a new coach and assistants for the wrestling program, and a new coach and assistants for the baseball team.
The biggest issue this summer at Western was a change at the top, where Josh Larsh took over as athletic director after Ryan Berryman stepped down.
The new AD has been on the job a couple weeks.
“The transition’s been great,” Larsh said. “People are more than willing to help and provide ideas and suggestions. The staff at Western is awesome from the treasurer to the bookkeeper, the transportation director. Everyone opened up their door. I can ask any question I need regardless of how silly it may be or how unimportant.”
Former athletic secretary Susie Wells has made trips back to the athletic office to help in Larsh’s transition, which the new AD greatly appreciates. Also, Larsh has an open line to Berryman, and has gotten help from outside the school.
“The one thing is that Ryan Berryman left everything in great shape,” Larsh said. “He had tied up all the loose ends. The needs of our fall coaches have all been met. On that same note the last couple days I’ve talked to several area ADs that offered their support and to help. That’s a blessing that those guys are so humble and willing to help out on anything that I need.”
Larsh is eager about the start of the new season and moving forward with his plans to strengthen the experience for Panther athletes.
“I’m just excited to get going,” Larsh said. “We hope that all our teams succeed on the field and the courts. But the bigger picture is that athletics is an educational experience and we want our athletes to represent Western well, we want to conduct ourselves with respect and integrity, and show that athletics is an extension of education, and not just a sport or activity that kids participate in once class is over.”
• Western is still working to fill an opening for a boys tennis coach, and also needs a middle school volleyball coach.