ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Doug Sisk sees himself as a fundamental kind of guy.
He has stressed fundamentals through some 23 years as a coach and 15 years in civic recreation-and it’s a commitment he said he brings to his job as the new recreation director in Hillsboro.
“I like teaching the fundamentals, and I like kids to get the fundamentals because fundamentals are what carry you on through the rest of your life,” said the 39-year-old Paola native who began his new assignment last week.
“Watching kids learn new skills, and be able to apply those skills into sports and life, is pretty much it for me.”
Sisk moved with his family to Colby when he was in second grade. He graduated from high school there in 1985 and from the community college there in 1987.
Rheumatic fever limited his own involvement in sports to baseball. He played in kids’ leagues while growing up, then began coaching kids’ teams when he was 16.
After graduating from community college, Sisk went on to Kansas State University, where he graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation management.
While at the university, he worked part time for Manhattan’s rec program and has been in that line of work ever since, including extended stints in Liberal and most recently in Alva, Okla.
While in Alva, Sisk helped oversee the construction of a huge recreational park the city funded with a half-cent sales tax. He and other city staff did enough of the work themselves that a project that would have cost more than $13 million if it had been contracted out, cost the city less than $4 million to complete.
“When Doug’s resume came in, I wondered if he was for real,” said Steve Garrett, Hillsboro city administrator. “But Doug is for real.
“I could see pretty quickly that he would have the experience to see where we needed to go, and how to take us there.
“We’ve come along way,” Garrett added. “Matt (Dalke) did a great job for us, and I think Doug can build on what Matt did and take us further.”
Sisk said he believes in a recreation program that emphasizes participation over competition-especially in the early years.
“There’s a place for competitiveness, but not at the beginner’s level,” Sisk said.
In that light, Sisk measures the “success” of a rec program by the number of repeat participants.
“It was the same thing when I coached,” he said. “I would look back from the year past and see how many of the kids I coached were playing again the next year.
“You can tell if they had a good experience or bad experience,” he said. “A few years of bad experiences and they’re not going to participate anymore.”
Key to a child having a good experience is having quality adult volunteers to work with them. Sisk said he plans to implement a certification program for all volunteer coaches.
The program he’s been involved with-the National Youth Sports Coaches Association-offers training not only in a particular sport, but also in working with kids in a safe and productive way.
“Coaches also have to sign a coaches code of ethics that they have to uphold,” Sisk added. “Then you have that code of ethics to come back on them if it’s necessary.”
Sisk said he also believes in a recreation program that provides a variety of non-athletic options as well.
“I’m looking for other things that we did,” he said. “At Liberal, for instance, we did a hayrack ride around Christmastime. We went around and saw the Christmas lights on a trailer with hay bales with Christmas music playing.”
And lest citizens think a rec program is only for kids, Sisk wants to draw in adults, too.
“When I work with a city, it’s not just in kids’ athletics,” he said. “It’s everybody’s tax dollars, so we have to find ways to include those people, too.”
Sisk said he plans to review the current programs Hillsboro has been offering before determining what new activities might be added-at all age levels.
“I’m looking forward to working with this community,” he said.
Fully committing himself to the job is fundamental to the way Sisk sees himself as a city employee and as a person.
“I’ve always said in the letter I send out for job interviews that I’m loyal to my community, my job, the schools I’ve attended and my church. I don’t talk bad about those things because I’ve always enjoyed everything I’ve done.
“I’ve had people tell me they like meeting me because I always have a smile,” he added.