JUNE 12 HOME STRETCH COLUMN — PETE TEMPLE, SPORTS EDITOR
Kirk Park has learned a great deal in 30 years as Midland High School’s athletic director.
One of the biggest things he learned was the value of being surrounded by helpful, supportive people.
“I’ve had a good run here,” said Park, who resigned from his post as of May 31. “Not only the kids have been good, but I’ve been really, really fortunate to have a group of community members that helped me administer the events.
“You say you need something, and they’re there. We’ve got guys that have been in our wrestling tournament for 30 years, that come back every year, and they don’t even blink an eye. They just ask, ‘What time, and where do I sit?’ ”
Park has also been part of a group of volunteer construction people who have built dugouts, a pressbox for football, buildings at the baseball diamond, and more.
“If we need something done here, we get together and we do it,” he said. “That’s great in a small community like this. We’ve saved the district money over the years by volunteering it out.”
Park came to Midland in the fall of 1974. He was head football coach for 25 years, and his teams made the post-season three times.
“We had some really good teams here. We had some 8-1, 7-2 teams that didn’t make it,” Park said. “And I had some really good assistant coaches. We had a good time.”
He taught in the business department at the school for 35 years, and possesses an impressive list of other positions he has held at various times: technology director, dean of students, head softball coach, middle school football coach, assistant football and boys basketball coach, bus driver.
Park also served a two-year stint as head boys basketball coach.
“I set basketball back 10 years here,” he joked. I was a swimmer in high school.”
That was in Burlington. He and his wife Kathy were both born there, and in fact lived in the same neighborhood. They both went on to Wayne State in Nebraska. Kathy taught for four years at Sacred Heart in Monticello in the 1970s, before joining her husband at Midland. She also retired this spring after 33 years with the Midland district.
“I’m 61,” Kirk Park said. “The pattern has been that every three years, they offer an early retirement package. It includes salary considerations, but it also included several years of insurance. We’re not real sure if the retirement package, in another three years, would look the same. We thought now would be a good time.”
Park also said he doesn’t mind getting out of teaching now.
“State mandates are making it less teaching and a lot more paperwork,” he said. “I guess I’m an old-timer. All the paperwork and the standards, while they’re probably good, it takes away from teaching time.
“I was spending a lot of time, as all teachers do, in meetings, where I didn’t quite ‘A,’ understand; and ‘B,’ agree with a lot of the stuff. The classroom part was getting to be not so much fun anymore.
“The kids were great, and the subjects were great, but the stuff coming down from Des Moines was getting a little burdensome. Let’s put it that way.”
Park intends to stay in Wyoming, and hopes to return to coaching after an IPERS-mandated 120-day period of no activity within the district.
“I hope to stay in contact with the school and the kids through coaching, and maybe substituting, after Oct. 1,” he said.
He also plans to continue officiating high school sports, which he has done for 25 years. He officiates basketball games with partners Tony Lust and Chris Dobel; and softball with Steve Noeller.
Park has officiated in 10 of the last 11 State Softball Tournaments, and was chosen to officiate at the State Girls Basketball Tournament this past winter.
Other than that, Park figures on playing a lot of golf.
“I can’t play much more golf than I already do,” he said. “I play every day now.”
Leaving the athletic director position will be an adjustment.
“It’s tough to part ways. It took me four days to clean out my office, and it’s still not clean,” Park said.
He also said he will miss those with whom he worked.
“One person I really appreciate is Kim Buchholtz,” he said. “She’s been in my office as my secretary for eight years.
“And the workers and the people who have helped me over the years, I can’t thank them enough. It’s impossible. They’re so good at it. That’s one part of an event you don’t even have to worry about; the game management part. Because those people are so good, and they’ve been doing it for so long.
“Kathy and I both have had a really good time, and the community’s been good. We plan to stay around.”
Park has learned that it’s also good to give back.
“I try to make myself visible also, and help different groups here in town too, just by my volunteering. It can’t be a one-way street. It has to be a two-way street.”