Steve Lewis/Durango Herald file photo
The current state of high school and youth sports and the future of the sporting culture will be the focus of the inaugural Southwest Colorado Sports Symposium on Monday and Tuesday in Durango.
A cooperative effort of Bayfield and Durango high schools and Fort Lewis College, the symposium will include sessions for administrators, coaches, officials, parents and student-athletes.
Participants are expected from throughout the Four Corners for a symposium that grew from a sportsmanship seed last spring.
Colorado High School Activities Association Assistant Director Tom Robinson contacted Dave Preszler, the athletic director at Bayfield High School, and asked him to help CHSAA with a regional sportsmanship initiative.
“I was asked to start the (sportsmanship) format down in this corner of the state,” Preszler said.
He already had been conferring with Sheldon Keresey, the AD at Durango High School, as well as Mike Hughes at Telluride and Sean O’Donnell at Pagosa Springs.
“After Sheldon and I talked, we said this has to be more than just a sportsmanship piece,” Preszler said. “It’s important that we move ahead and examine the entire sporting culture.”
He said the area high school athletic directors and FLC AD Gary Hunter all agreed that the situation presented a unique opportunity.
“We’re all a part of that (sporting) culture. Officials are a part of that culture. Student-athletes very certainly are a part as are coaches and parents,” Preszler said. “We ... can examine the reculturing of sports or perhaps the refocusing of sports.”
“My perspective is that ... we need to refocus on why we have youth and interscholastic sports,” Keresey said. “Our society, our culture has given us a different direction ... the ‘ESPN culture,’ if you will.”
He said he hopes the different groups at the symposium can learn from each other and work together to refine the focus of high school and youth sports.
The sessions at the two-day symposium are designed to stimulate discussions among the groups of the sporting culture, he said.
The program will begin at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the DHS auditorium with the Officials Session. Officials and coaches of all sports are invited to participate along with school administrators.
Robinson, the statewide sportsmanship coordinator for CHSAA, will open the session.
Topics will include the challenges of contemporary officiating, communication with coaches and players and the future of officiating in Southwest Colorado.
The Students Session will start Tuesday’s program at 9 a.m. at the FLC Student Union. Student-athletes from around the region have been invited by their respective high schools to participate in the general session as well as smaller breakout discussion groups.
Area school superintendents Don Snowberger of Durango and Troy Zabel will welcome the students along with Dene Kay Thomas, FLC president.
J.R. Smith, the commissioner of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, also will address the student contingent along with CHSAA’s Robinson. He’ll lead a sportsmanship survey as part of the program.
The Coaches Session, also at the Student Union, will start at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. The challenges of coaching in the 21st century will be examined along with other related issues.
The final part of the program will be the Parents Session, starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the FLC Student Union. Parents are invited. They will be briefed on the earlier symposium discussions.
O’Donnell, the AD at Pagosa Springs High School, will help lead a discussion on “Refocusing of Rational for Sport.”
Discussions also are planned to help parents cope with their high school student-athletes, as well as coaches and fellow parents.
More breakout groups are planned as part of the two-hour Parents Session.
“For the students, No. 1 it is important for adults to hear what this generation (of student-athletes) is saying,” Preszler said.
“At the same time, it’s important for (students) to hear what CHSAA is saying, what the coaches are saying, what officials are saying,” Preszler said.
In the end, he said, the symposium will answer a key question: How do we all work together?
“I think there will be a ton we can learn from each other,” Preszler said.
The symposium sessions are free and open to the public.
“Our hope is that this is just the beginning,” Keresey said.