Archive for Thursday, August 10, 2006

A whole new ballgame

August 10, 2006

New De Soto activities director Steve Deghand said the thing he'll miss most about coaching is the relationships developed with players.

Watching him work the crowd Thursday afternoon on the first day of enrollment, it was evident he'll still have plenty of opportunity to build bridges, however.

Making the jump from lifelong player and coach to activities director is by no means easy, Deghand said. But as he kicks off his first season as the top cat in De Soto, he's excited about what's to come.

Being an activities director isn't all about setting the football schedule or making sure the lights are on for the volleyball tournament, and Deghand said that was his first lesson. The hardest part thus far: paperwork.

"I never knew what all (former activities director) Roy (Hawley) did in the office," Deghand said with a laugh. "I guess he wasn't just farting around."

As a coach, Deghand was responsible for his players and organizing all the aspects of one baseball team. As activities director, he'll have similar responsibilities for all 13 of De Soto's sports, the schools' activities, plus all the sports and activities at Lexington Trails Middle School.

"When you do all that organizing for a sport as a varsity head coach, it's just a smaller scale," Deghand said. "As a head coach, you have to organize everything for your activity. Now my role is going to be to make sure that all those activities are organized. It's a challenge."

Enough of a challenge that Deghand has yet to remove Hawley's number from the top of his speed dial.

Hawley retired from De Soto after more than 30 years as a teacher and a coach, the last five of which he spent as activities director.

So far retirement has been filled with more school -- Hawley became a realtor and plans to test the real estate business -- hard work -- he and his wife are fixing up their Lawrence home -- and phone calls from Deghand.

"That means I left it a mess," Hawley said. "He's doing pretty well. He's a pretty sharp guy."

One thing both agreed helped aid the transition was Deghand's school day visits toward the end of the spring semester.

The activities director job was originally given to Richard Bechard of Holton, but when he opted for another job, Deghand was happy to step in and take over in De Soto.

The in-building transition really helped, Hawley said.

"It was a lot smoother because Steve was there and we were able to talk a lot," he said. "The fact that it had been planned out for quite a while helped. It wasn't just a spur of the moment decision.

"When I came in, they had a district athletic director who was trying to do both high schools, so it was much more difficult."

Deghand's tenure will usher in a number of changes in the De Soto sporting world.

First, Deghand is the first activities director to be responsible for both Lexington Trails Middle School and De Soto High School.

While some of the coaches already work together and have strong programs, Deghand said having both under the same leadership will allow the high school teams an edge.

"It will be a seamless transfer for the student athlete," he said. "We'll get all the coaches working together, whether it's terminology in football or whatever.

"Everyone should be a part of the overall goal and that is to make our activities programs the best they can be."

De Soto High School and Lexington Trails will also both kick off the next school year with a Sunday night all-sports parents meeting.

Previously the meetings have been separated by sport, but this year they will be combined with a Champions of Courage presentation presented by Rob Miller.

"We're really excited about it," Deghand said of the 45-minute presentation. "It reminds everyone why we're there at a game sometimes. It's a good reminder of who's supposed to be benefiting from these activities the most -- the student athlete."

As for the relationships, Deghand said he knows it'll be impossible to maintain the coach-player rapport he enjoyed in his first four years at De Soto, but he plans to help a new generation of coaches find success and develop similar relationships themselves.

It's all part of Deghand's plan to sell De Soto High and Lexington Trails to whomever walks through the door.

He's in charge of activities ranging from tennis to debate, scholars bowl to baseball, and he said all of them can be employed to make De Soto a better school.

"I want to make De Soto High a school that people want to come to. We're in competition for kids whether we want to be or not. You have the new St. James Academy and Johnson County is known for its schools," he said. "If someone is deciding where they want to move and where they want to live, I want them to choose the De Soto schools.

"You can go as far as to say that when people come here for the first time, it's for an athletic event. When you go to a restaurant for the first time, if you don't get good service, you're going to go somewhere else.

"I want the experience to be the best it can be, whether it be the grounds being in top shape, or the bleachers or the court, everything about it."

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