BRIGHTON — Outgoing Prairie View athletic director Rich Affleck — taking a similar job at Centaurus High School next school year — finished adorning the west fences of the school stadium with new banners April 21.
The banners simply said, “We are Prairie View.”
“I’m happy with where we are,” he said. “The coaches feel that way, too. Everything we did was about we and us, and it was done for the kids and the community.”
Like the song “ Do-Re-Mi” in “The Sound of Music,” Affleck started at the very beginning. He knew he wanted to be a teacher and a coach. A stint at Overland Trail Middle School gave him a taste of athletic administration. When former AD Steve Shelton left Prairie View to go to Heritage High School (he’s at Broomfield High School), Affleck decided to take the plunge.
“It was a big deal to get the track resurfaced. I think we got the press box in year 2,” he said while sitting on the football bench. “We added lights at the end of year 2. It was important to get that community support. We knew we had to make sure the community was OK with our plans and that the lights would shine on the field and not out into the neighborhood.”
The night the school’s new field house was to be dedicated turned out to be a special night in Affleck’s family, too.
“My youngest son was born the day it was supposed to open,” he said. “I was here at work and excited about the field house when my wife called and said, ‘It’s time to come home. I know you have an obligation to stay there. But you have obligations at home, too.’”
The field house — complete with a concession stand and restrooms — opened for business that night. Affleck hopes that there will be space for team meeting rooms.
There was a time when the walls of Prairie View’s gym were white.
“There was nothing that said ‘ThunderHawks,’” Affleck said. “Izzy Milstead painted the ThunderHawks logo. We got approval for the trophy cabinets. It wasn’t the hugest priority. But I really think our kids grew up when they saw that. We’ve done a lot with that building.”
At one time, there was no fence between the seats in the stadium and the field.
“We were wondering how we were going to keep people off the track during meets and keep spectators where we’d like them to stay,” Affleck said. Not only is there a fence, there is a cement path all the way around the stadium.
Affleck thinks feeder programs are the lifeblood of a high school’s athletic program. He’s pleased with his school’s feeder programs but knows there’s more work to do.
“It was a struggle to start ours. We were competing against Brighton’s system,” he said. “Most sports have gotten there. Others are making progress. Our first group of feeder lacrosse players will be here in the fall of 2014. We have two youth football programs, the Pop Warner program and the Rocky Mountain ThunderHawks. We’re going to see great benefits when those little guys join us in a couple of years.
“The Gold Crown basketball program is doing well. Jason Oulman and Gonzalo Godinez are working more and more on their soccer clubs. Coaches see how important that is,” Affleck added. “That’s something I wish we were further along with. It’s there for some. It’ll be there soon for others.
“You can’t compete at the state level without good feeder programs.”
Rivalry from all sides
Between 2006 and 2012, Affleck knew most of the student-athletes at Brighton and Prairie View high schools. Affleck also was the district athletic director for two years because of budget constraints.
“Both schools wanted to build that rivalry,” Affleck said. “One thing we’ve tried to do at both schools is to foster the fierce competition on the field but to be friendly before and after the games. They’ve grown up together. They go back into the community together. They’ve been friends for a long time. That’s the way it ought to be.”
Pet projects, past and future
One of Affleck’s major efforts has been to make use of the swing field just north of the football stadium and west of the baseball field.
“I’ve been pushing that one. It impacts kids in all of our programs. It’s not a short-term thing. It’s a long-term deal,” he said. “I’m happy to see the groundbreaking this spring and that the fruits of the labor will come in the fall. I may have to come and see the first game there, whether it’s in the fall or next spring.”
Affleck is hoping the school will get a new turf field. The one in place has been there for eight years, and it was used before it arrived at Prairie View.
“Brighton’s is the same age,” Affleck said. “It’s an important piece for the community. We’re trying to do both at the same time over the summer so the communities know both schools got something.”
Affleck knows of Centaurus’ tradition in high school athletics, especially in wrestling and girls lacrosse. He also knows Centaurus’ other programs have been struggling.
“It’ll be a challenge to help them. But I think we can do it the same way we built the program here,” Affleck said. “We have to rebuild bridges with new parents and the recreation centers. We have to strengthen those connections. You can have a good program if you get the community to buy in. If you convince them the coaches are doing the right things and you get the school support for it, you will be successful.”
Affleck has had other chances to leave Prairie View. He applied for another job but pulled his name from consideration because the timing wasn’t right. This time, it was.
“My boys are getting older, and it’s important for me to have time with them,” Affleck said. “One is going into middle school. One is in elementary school. Being an athletic director is a time-consuming job. We’ve seen each other at many events, and I like to think I see as many events as I can.
“I wasn’t looking to go anywhere per se,” he added. “But the opportunity to go to Centaurus and to be close to where my boys are going to school? It made too much sense not to pass up.”
Affleck is going to spend some time the next two months putting schedules together for the next two-year cycle of games. He’s excited about the Eastern Metro Athletic Conference’s league track meet that’s coming to PVHS early next month. He’s looking forward to graduation Memorial Day weekend.
“You’ve seen theses kids for four years. They’ve made it to graduation, and you know they are going to go on and do good things,” he said. “I’m excited to be a part of that.”
And then he’ll leave the Prairie View halls and join his new family of administrators and teachers at Centaurus. His new job starts in late July, though he’ll be on campus earlier than that.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “I’ll come check on them. A piece of me will always be here. But I’m excited for the next challenge. I’m excited to be close to home. I’m excited for the challenge of a new administration team.
“I’ve loved being at Prairie View. I wanted to be here the first year. But that didn’t pan out,” he concluded. “We’ve given our heart and soul to this place. We’ve built relationships with the kids, the parents, the teachers, the coaches. I’ll miss the people. I’m going to ride off into the sunset to a different place. But I know I’m leaving a great place with a lot of great people.
“They really are.”
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