As activities director for USD 410, Robert Rempel has seen his share of big wins on the courts, fields and running tracks that Hillsboro High School calls home.
This time, the win is on him.
Last week, Rempel was named District 1 Activities Director of the Year by the Kansas Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.
Rempel toils almost invisibly behind the scenes to ensure that every Hillsboro function runs smoothly but would just as soon be invisible for this win, too.
“It’s a definite honor, but do I feel I deserve it over others? No,” he said.
If Rempel has learned anything about success, it’s all about the team.
“It takes a whole group of people, and I’m very fortunate to have those here,” he said.
Rempel’s official job description actually has three components. He is activities director for grades 6-12, assistant principal for grades 6-12 and guardian of the facilities schedule.
“When someone wants to reserve a room, or something like that, they let me know,” he said.
Beyond the nutshell, his duties cover almost every detail you can think of that makes it possible to carry on a multi-faceted athletic program as well as other extra-curricular activities. From scheduling, to finding officials, to arranging transportation, Rempel juggles his tasks professionally and busily.
“Sometimes I have a super busy day, I go home and just want sit down and relax,” he said. “(Wife) Sara will ask me, ‘Well, what did you do’?
“Well, I don’t know. It’s phone calls, it’s answering phones, it’s going to check on a classroom, it’s ‘hey, can you come over to my room to do this?’ ‘Oh, hey, I need to go and get some cases of water for officials.’ I need to make sure the hospitality room is set up for something….”
Suffice it to say, Rempel puts in a lot of hours to cover his bases.
But that’s where his team steps up: Clint Corby, middle/high school principal; three administrative support staff in the office; athletic coaches; activity sponsors and a small army of “civilian” volunteers waiting to enlist their aid.
“We’ve got three great office administrative assistants,” Rempel said. “Without them, my job would be miserably long. It’s already a lot of work, but those three ladies and Clint make it manageable.
“Also, our coaches are incredible,” he added. “I’ve been in places where the coaching staff doesn’t work as well together. This group works pretty well. They understand. They’re not demanding all the time.
“I’ve always said this award should be more for the school district than one person because I’m just a person sitting in the back corner of the office.”
Rempel guards his list of event volunteers carefully.
“I spend a lot of time getting workers,” he said. “I have my fall events, my winter events, my spring events. In fall, it’s football and volleyball, a little with (girls’) tennis, but not much. Cross-country—I don’t have to find any.”
The winter sports season is particularly busy, he said. The Trojans host at least one night of home basketball games almost every week; the basketball blitz climaxes with the Trojan Classic in mid-January.
“We’ve got a super booster club,” Rempel said about the organization that officially sponsors the tournament. “They are incredible to work with because they are so into wanting to do things for the kids at the school.”
The booster club organizes the hospitality side of the Trojan Classic.
“Everybody talks about how good it is,” Rempel said.
Of course, spring means organizing track and field meets, baseball and softball games, and boys’ tennis and golf tournaments.
“I want to hire as many of the same people as I can,” Rempel said. “Some people want to get into it because they want to be a part of it, and I try to work them in. But that reliability factor of having someone who has experience—it’s like it’s taken care of. I don’t need to teach, I don’t need to explain.”
State budget cuts have made the recruiting process more difficult.
“We don’t pay everybody the same like we used to,” he said. “That’s made it a little more intense.”
So where does Rempel find satisfaction beyond his paycheck?
“I love people,” he said. “No matter how busy, whatever the event is, just seeing people, talking to them and watching the students have fun. The parents, the fans—I love the smiles. Just seeing that people are happy with what’s going on.”
On the flip side, not everything he observes at the athletic events he organizes makes him smile.
“When I watch ball games, and I watch parents and community members yelling at these kids for fumbling the ball or missing a shot—it breaks my heart,” he said. “It really hurts because these are teenagers.”
Rempel said when fans and parents yell obnoxiously at players, coaches and officials, they’re teaching values to their kids.
“I do not agree with every call an official makes, I am not always happy with the way kids do things, but I still don’t know any kid who misses a layup on purpose,” he said.
“If they know they’re going to get yelled at, it puts extra pressure on,” he added. “It’s hard for me to watch that. These are high school and middle school ball games.”
Despite the bumps in the road and the extended hours, Rempel seems to be happy in his career path.
“I’d really be curious what this (job) would be like at another school,” he said. “I do honestly believe that I would find it very difficult somewhere else.
“I think other people have great staff, too, but when you get used to the staff you have, you just know what to expect.”