Prep Sports

Tom Keating heading to IHSAA with ears - and eyes - wide open

Ogden column: Xavier president takes over as IHSAA director July 1

Tom Keating, the former principal and now president at Xavier High School, said he will head to Boone with his eyes and ears wide open. (The Gazette)
Tom Keating, the former principal and now president at Xavier High School, said he will head to Boone with his eyes and ears wide open. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Tom Keating is fully engaged as president of Xavier High School.

But you can’t blame him for sneaking a peak at his next adventure.

The 63-year-old Keating, you may recall, was named the sixth director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association in March. He takes over the boys’ governing body on July 1.

He’s taken a few vacation days to visit the IHSAA office in Boone and he gets asked about every day what he will do once he takes over for Alan Beste.

He enjoys discussing his new gig.

He spent some time last week with members of the sports tourism committee, an advisory council that works with Cedar Rapids Tourism.

He laid out his plan as best he could and took a few questions from the committee, which, of course, is interested in attracting as many IHSAA events to Cedar Rapids as possible.

He knows this new job will come with many challenges, some real and some perceived.

He wants to move the IHSAA forward, noting he’s a firm believer in the “you either get better or worse” mantra.

He took on several topics, including the unpopular TV contract with Iowa High School Sports Network.

“I think we’re going to make progress,” he said.

He also talked about something I haven’t heard a lot about — the time students and parents put into athletics.

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I am a firm believer in the multisport athlete. I think it makes athletes more well-rounded and improves skills in their “best” sport. And in small-school Iowa, multisport athletes are needed to sustain programs.

But what we don’t often hear about is the effect this has on the athlete and their families.

“We’re killing kids and we’re killing families,” Keating said.

He is looking for suggestions to “create some breaks.”

An Iowa high school athlete could go from fall sport (football, volleyball) right into a winter sport (basketball, wrestling) with little or no break. Spring sports start while winter sports are wrapping up and, in Iowa, baseball and softball are in the summer and get cranking about the same time as the state track and field meet.

Football and volleyball have camps during the final weeks of baseball and softball.

“Kids are exhausted,” Keating said. “We have to figure out a way to give them a break.”

He didn’t offer any solutions but said he “loves these challenges.” They are difficult, he noted, “but not impossible.”

He’s looking for help. And that, to many, is a step in the right direction.

“I’m big on the feedback piece,” he said.

That will be welcome to many who feel differently about the association now. Coaches and athletics directors — when the notebooks are packed away and the recorders are off — often complain about an organization that really doesn’t listen or want any help. Once a decision is made, they claim, it’s final regardless of how the coaches and ADs feel.

Keating — as a former coach, AD and principal — can be a different kind of leader, someone with a unique perspective.

“I feel like I’ve been in their seat,” he said. “I know what their world looks like.”

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Keating, it appears, heads to Boone with his eyes — and ears — wide open. Only good things can come from that.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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