Don’t take a well-rounded recreation program for granted. When I was on the Hillsboro Recreation Commission in the 1980s, our programs lacked consistency, largely because the city didn’t have a full-time recreation director.
But that was then, and this is now. Hillsboro has had consistency in its recreation program since Doug Sisk became the city’s recreation director in 2006. Here’s his brief life story.
“I did not get to play organized sports (in Colby) except for baseball and bowling as a middle school or high school student because when I was in the 5th grade I had rheumatic fever, which caused me to have a heart murmur.”
Sisk’s doctor wouldn’t release him to play organized sports, except for baseball, bowling, and golf, participate in band and help some buddies be basketball managers.
“I helped the AD (athletic director) run the chains for middle school football games, and I helped him call in scores for the Orange and Black Classic to all of the newspapers and radio stations across the state,” said Sisk. “My senior year I was released to play sports, but I figured it was too late to get started, so I just lifted weights and competed in weight lifting. By Christmas, I had broken the school record for squats at 435 lbs. On my last day of school I squatted 500 lbs., and set the big three record (squat, deadlift, and bench) at 1,135 lbs.”
After attending Colby Community College, he wasn’t enjoying some of his secondary education programs as much as he had previously. So Sisk’s dad encouraged him to change his major to Parks and Recreation Management at Kansas State University in 1989.
In 1991, Sisk was hired by the Liberal Parks and Recreation Department as a program manager, and he was responsible for all adult sports, including softball, volleyball, and basketball, as well as youth baseball and softball, and the after-school program. He also helped run youth flag football, soccer, and basketball through a program called Kids Inc.
Sisk was hired by the city of Alva, Oklahoma, in 2000, after the city passed a sales tax with a vision of putting in a recreation park.“I oversaw the building of a two-court indoor gymnasium, and with the help of my maintenance worker, along with prisoner workers, we were able to put in five soccer fields, four softball fields, and four baseball fields with irrigation,” said Sisk. He also ran various youth and adult recreation programs.
Since becoming Hillsboro’s rec director, Sisk has been more than a stabilizing force. He has steadily moved the program forward. He shared with me a few of his accomplishments.
“I would say helping to bring in such things as the tower playground equipment in the park, replacing the old metal press boxes with the new wider enclosed press boxes, adding disc golf course to the sports complex, and although it is not complete, now we have two fields with covered bleachers. None of this would have been achieved without the city workers and citizen volunteers who have helped with these projects.”
Even with seasonal part-time help, a rec director in a small city has to be a jack-of-all-trades and oversee virtually everything, from maintaining ballfields (nail dragging, smooth dragging, mowing, and chalking), to finding umpires, officials, and volunteer coaches.
Did you know Hillsboro offers yearly programs in dance, gymnastics, and martial arts? Sisk says the Hillsboro Rec Program works with spring soccer for kindergarten through high school, coordinates blast ball, T-ball, machine pitch and baseball for 10U, 12U, 15U and 18U if there is enough interest; softball for 10U, 12U and 16U, swim team, tennis camp, drama camp, golf camp, summer volleyball camp, youth volleyball league, summer Arts and Crafts Camp, swimming lessons, dance camp, disc golf camp, flag football and JAM basketball for kids.
The Recreation Program also conducts two field trips each year — normally one in the fall and one in the spring. There also are several adult cooking classes and other youth classes, such as STEM Camp, pumpkin carving and Kid’s Chopped Cooking Class, which they have held in the past, to name a few.
Hillsboro is blessed to have Sisk at the helm, along with support from the Recreation Commission and city government officials, offering programs that benefit so many people. Investing in a full-time rec director has been worth it.