Collins-Maxwell School forges ahead with plans for next year’s athletics

Marlys Barker Tri-County
Times Editor

One thing is sure — there’s a lot of work ahead this year as Collins-Maxwell begins to realize its new athletic future — one that will be forged without its longtime athletic partner, Baxter.

The mood of Collins-Maxwell administrators was optimistic Monday as they held a well-attended community forum in the high school gym to talk about what they’ve looked at so far and what challenges lie ahead for the district to prepare for its own sports programs, starting in the fall of 2017. Leading the charge is Dr. Tom Lane, former interim superintendent for the district, who has agreed to work with Collins-Maxwell on matters concerning its break-up with Baxter.

At the forum, Lane gave a PowerPoint presentation on the process that he and a team of administrators have worked through so far, and what things lie ahead this school year.

One thing the school has already looked into is a new conference. Obviously, its present Heart of Iowa Conference membership offers larger schools than C-M will want to play in the future. So, Lane said after talking about the possible options for a new conference, it was decided by the administrative team that the Iowa Star Conference would be the best fit for Collins-Maxwell. He recently met with officials from the Iowa Star Conference, of which neighboring Colo-Nesco is a member, and Collins-Maxwell has been extended an invitation to join the conference. The decision to accept this invitation will be on the Collins-Maxwell School Board’s agenda tonight (Thursday, Nov. 10).

Another thing the school board will be asked to approve soon is an agreement, or several agreements, for dissolution of things that have been co-owned between Collins-Maxwell and Baxter during their longtime sports-sharing arrangement. Lane said he and a Baxter representative have already met with legal counsel to help them with this matter. The money earned from athletic programs will be separated 50-50, Lane said, and as for items that go with the sports programs, those things will need to be figured out, and the attorney can help the districts settle those matters.

On Monday, Lane outlined sports programming options for the district. He said that the administrative team sat down, and to the best of its ability calculated the likely number of students who will participate in each sport over the coming years. The group has determined that the district should be able to have its own volleyball, cross country, boys’ and girls’ basketball, wrestling, track and softball teams.

As for baseball, he said there is a question of whether or not there would be enough boys in the district to have a team. The same is true for football. Lane said he was previously told by people in the district that if Collins-Maxwell were on its own, if there wasn’t so much traveling for practices and if kids would have more opportunity to play, then more kids would go out for some of these sports. So, he concluded, there might be enough boys to field a baseball team. Either way, a nearby school district, which Lane did not want to name until they make a decision, has offered Collins-Maxwell a chance to join its school for both baseball and football, if they could not field their own team.

As for soccer, he said it’s been agreed that Collins-Maxwell should continue in the current partnership it has with several other schools in that sport. And for golf, he said, they have talked to a former partner in that sport, and it appears the two schools could work together in golf again.

One area of challenge for the district, Lane said, will be facilities. There is work that needs to be done to get the Maxwell football field in good playing condition. The school’s weight room, Lane said, “is kind of a scary place.” He said that area will need some painting and other upgrades to be workable for the kids. He also commented that the district needs to come up with a place for track kids to practice. Noting that he once coached track in a district that didn’t have a track, Lane said it’s not unheard of, but there needs to be some place where the kids can practice. He said two nearby schools, with beautiful tracks, have indicated their willingness for Collins-Maxwell to host a home meet at their facilities. He also said it might be a good idea for Collins-Maxwell to reach out to these districts and try to arrange some practice time on their tracks when they aren’t using them.

Athletic Director Lori Fricke, who was commended on her ability to work well with both Collins-Maxwell and Baxter during this transitional year, said Collins-Maxwell has a lot of work to do in the coming weeks to determine new branding. A new mascot, new school colors and a new fight song are among the things the school will need. She said it can generate a lot of excitement for the community, and it needs to involve the kids.

Fricke reminded all the residents of Collins-Maxwell that she still wants the current CMB teams to be respected as they go through other sports seasons this year, and she said kids in the Collins-Maxwell district need to be encouraged to become part of the sports programs as Collins-Maxwell starts playing on its own next year. “We need to keep sports thriving at Collins-Maxwell,” she said.

It was noted at the meeting that determining coaches for all the sports teams will be another challenge that lies ahead. Lane said, while there are some good coaches in place for Collins-Maxwell, there will be a need to reach out to staff members who have coaching certificates, and to community members who have coaching certificates. Most importantly, he said, the district needs to find coaches who fit with programs well and who can encourage all kids, no matter what their athletic ability, to feel positive about their contributions.

Lane said he hopes that all students will recognize the opportunity they have to be in sports and other extra-curricular activities and be part of something very special moving forward. He also said it’s important for the community to wrap their arms around this school. “And you will be rewarded for that,” he said.

Next week, on Wednesday evening, Nov. 16, a meeting will be held for all parents interested and willing to be part of a new Collins-Maxwell booster club. This club will be very important in helping the district raise funds for many new things, including uniforms and facility improvements.