JeffSouthwick
Richmond School District
Richmond, Mo.

1. What is your job?

I’m in my ninth year as director of athletics, buildings and grounds, transportation and food services for the Richmond School District. Our school district serves the surrounding smaller towns and rural area, as well as Richmond.

We have four schools within the district. Dear Elementary serves kindergarten through first grade. Sunrise Elementary serves second through fifth grade. The elementary buildings are located at separate sites. Our largest property is a 46-acre campus with two facilities: our middle school for sixth through eighth grades, and our high school serving grades nine through 12. The two facilities are within sight of each other, but operate as separate schools and have separate parking lots. We offer physical education classes for all our students and athletic programs for our middle school and high school students.

The teams take their positions for a game on the varsity football field.
 
Woodson Dear Field, the football game field located at the elementary school site, shows some late-season wear.
 
The field conditions on a Halloween night game on the varsity field.
 
The renovated baseball field.

2. How did your background prepare you for this position?

A broad range of experience and education equipped me for my current multifaceted position. I’d earned my bachelor’s degree in 1982 in industrial safety and fire science from the University of Central Missouri (UCMO). In 1983, I purchased and operated a lawn care company providing fertilization, pest control, aerification and other specialized services to commercial and residential accounts. I’d developed an interest in turf through golfing. My dad and grandfather introduced me to the game when I was 10, and I played on the Excelsior Springs High School and the UCMO teams.

Although the lawn care business was successful, I sold the company in 1987 and went back to UCMO to earn my education degree in earth science. In 2000, I earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UCMO. I started with the Richmond Schools in 1990 as a seventh-grade science teacher and the coach of both the boys’ and girls’ golf teams. I taught for 10 years before moving to my current position, and continued to coach for three more years.

3. How is the upper-level campus organized?

Our 46-acre campus is the site of the majority of our athletic fields. While the school district owns the property, we lease part of it to the city of Richmond and their parks and recreation personnel help maintain those areas.

We have one baseball and one softball field on that site. On school game days for either sport, our maintenance people prep the field for the game. The city preps the fields for their programs.

Our varsity football game field and outdoor track facility has bleacher seating, a concession stand and restroom facilities. We have a practice facility below the varsity football field. There’s general-purpose field space around the middle school, which the middle school uses for practices for multiple sports. As part of our cooperative arrangement with the city, they use that space for soccer and flag football on Saturdays for the park and recreation programs.

We also have a cross country course within the campus that serves the high school teams. We host an invitational tournament each year and, for the past several years, have been the site of the district cross country meet.

4. Has the baseball field been upgraded?

The baseball field had originally been used for both softball and baseball and had a skinned infield. About a year ago, the school district and the city split the costs of renovation, purchasing the sod and calcined clay for the project. With members of the community providing much of the labor, we installed a grass infield with a clay base path and home plate area, and a newly constructed pitchers’ mound.

5. Did the track installation affect the football field?

The football game field was originally put in about 1985, with much of the work donated by area farmers and other members of the community. It’s a native soil field, crowned for surface drainage. The turf is a mix of several different types of grass, which we now overseed with a blend of turf-type tall fescues.

We didn’t make any changes to the playing field itself when we installed the eight-lane, all-weather track a year ago. We did put in additional drains along the edge of the field on both sides of the track to channel water away from both the field and track surfaces. The drains lead to subsurface piping that runs into the main sewer lines.

6. Do you have additional fields?

We’re fortunate that the Dear Elementary School, which used to be the site of the old high school, has an additional football field; we maintain it as a game field. It’s used by the schools for eighth and ninth-grade games on Monday nights. The city’s Little League football program holds their games on it on Saturdays, playing seven or eight games during the day.

7. Do you have a set maintenance program?

Safety is the top priority for all of our athletic fields. Our field care program is based more on need than any set schedule. We mow the fields and the general turf areas with a John Deere Z-track diesel. We maintain the fields year round with irrigation, aerification, fertilization and pest control. Our most intensive care comes in conjunction with the heavy use of fall football. We own an older spoon-type aerator that we put weights on and pull behind a mower. A quality aerator that would operate on the three-point hitch of a tractor is on our wish list.

Both football game fields and the high school practice field have inground irrigation systems. The ones for the high school fields were installed during construction. The older field at the elementary school has an old pipe and spigot system that still operates effectively.

8. Do the teams have a support group?

The All Sports Club is a group of people who work together to support all of the athletic teams. Member volunteers help with various game-related activities. They also work the concession stands with all the monies they make going to support all activities. Volunteers come in on Wednesday or Thursday to paint the numbers on the varsity football field. They’ll also do some painting in the end zones for special games.

9. What’s your biggest project to date?

Our new multipurpose building was built entirely through donations of labor and fundraising that produced $200,000 for the project. It houses an indoor Sprinturf football practice field, wrestling facilities, tennis courts, shower and locker rooms and the coaches’ offices. It took four years from the start of the idea to completion of the project.

10. How does it all fit together?

My wife, Karen, now principal at the high school, is supportive of the athletic programs. The superintendent of schools, Jim Robins, does an excellent job. He and our board of education are dedicated to providing our students with the resources they need to achieve success, not just academically, but in all areas, including athletics.

For the last five years, I’ve sponsored a golf tournament in conjunction with Gregg Steele, owner of John Deere dealer Richmond Farm and Lawn, at our local facility, Shirkey Golf Club. We’ve raised between $12,000 and $15,000 each year, which all goes to activities. After completing the multipurpose building, we channeled those funds to equipment for the weight room and reconditioning the wrestling mats. I firmly believe a key part of the athletic director’s role is to be able to generate funds to offset costs for the taxpayers.