If there is a face of Newton athletics, it's not any coach or student-athlete. Rather, it is a seemingly unassuming freshman science teacher who goes by the name of Fred Becker. Go to any NHS sporting event and it will quickly become clear why.
"He truly has become a part of the culture of Newton High School athletics," said NHS athletic director Brian Becker. "Visiting players, coaches, administrators, fans and even officials have come to expect the outstanding hospitality that Fred provides and are genuinely concerned or disappointed if Fred is not there to greet them at some point throughout the event,"
Fred began his teaching career at Santa Fe Middle School in 1981 and immediately got roped into helping with extra tasks at sporting events (i.e. taking tickets, running the scoreboard, etc.). After a few years, he was recruited to the high school to fill a similar role and has now officially been serving in that capacity as athletic events coordinator for 14 years.
"These duties have included a variety of tasks associated with hosting events at Newton High School," said Brian Becker. "He tirelessly works to prepare each event and have all things ready, such as locker rooms, ticket gates, hospitality and many other behind the scenes tasks that we don't normally see."
Commitment for Fred goes beyond helping at events solely hosted by NHS, as it was noted he is a constant at away events as well — and he doesn't take those games off, either, frequently helping the schools hosting and sometimes being the last to leave those road games (as he will even help with clean up after the contests are over).
Given his passion for all aspects of the high school athletics experience, it should come as no surprise that Fred's efforts are being recognized, as he was recently tabbed to be this year's recipient of the Kansas Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association's Elmer Carpenter award.
"They are a professional in all respects, a tireless worker and a community leader," Brian Becker said of typical honorees, "...so Fred really fits the mold of what this award is all about; the dedication to high school athletics."
"As an assistant principal and athletic director, I know that I could not effectively do my job without Fred's service and assistance. I have heard from multiple athletic directors that they wish they had a Fred Becker," Brian Becker said. "In the short time I've been at Newton, I have greatly admired his work ethic, dedication and servant's heart that I continually see in Fred and cannot thank him enough for all that he has done to support myself, our coaches and our students."
While Fred noted he would love to say he was inspired to embrace this role by way of enveloping that servant's mentality, he admitted a big part of why he has fully given himself to assisting the athletic department is simply the joy he takes in interacting with students and others in that realm.
Part of that does extend into the classroom, still, as Fred makes time to teach students what it means to be a Railer and some of the school traditions (i.e. the alma mater). In that vein, he noted it has been exciting to see the tradition of singing the alma mater after Newton victories evolve over the years, as well as hearing how students have carried that with them — like one who went on to join the rowing team at Yale and had to sing the NHS alma mater for his teammates after practice.
Beyond the school, Fred also volunteers at St. Mary's Catholic Church — from helping (unsurprisingly) with youth groups to maintaining the grounds (trimming the bushes, mowing, etc.) over the summer. All in all, that service has been a pleasant experience for him and something he is happy to continue.
Recognition through the Elmer Carpenter award takes on extra meaning because of the characteristics tied to the honor. It is an award honoring an individual who helped bring structure and cooperation to high school athletic departments across Kansas — and Fred admitted that is part of what he enjoys most about his role at NHS, as his service is just the tip of the spear among the administrators, coaches and others he works with.
"It's just fun being able to touch base with those people and recognize that we've created something with our contacts with each other that really ends up being a good thing for the youngsters in providing good kinds of events for healthy competition and also cooperation in many ways," Fred Becker said. "It's an honor to be given that kind of recognition that is presented kind of in the spirit of bringing people together to do athletic work."
"One of the best things," Fred said, "is just to see a group of adults, whether it be administration or coaches or assistant coaches or custodians, working together to support a program that is really both an at-risk program and an enrichment program because kids from all ends of the academic spectrum are benefitting from athletics."
Fred will receive the Elmer Carpenter award at the KIAAA's annual convention in Manhattan on April 14. For more information, visit www.kiaaa.org.