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FHSU grad will guide HRC youth sports




Don't try to convince Keith Smith there is anything to the old wive's tale about "seven years of bad luck."

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Don't try to convince Keith Smith there is anything to the old wive's tale about "seven years of bad luck."

If anything, Smith probably is thinking that time span has been good luck for him. That's because he finally is working in the field of his choice, seven years after his graduation from Fort Hays State University.

Heading into one of the most hectic times of the year at his new job, Smith anxiously is anticipating the start of the fall season as new youth sports director of the Hays Recreation Commission.

"I'm really excited about this, can't wait until the games start," Smith said.

Smith's enthusiasm is understandable. He had planned to pursue a career in recreation management in college, but he chose the quicker route of earning a bachelor's degree in general studies in order to provide for his family.

While working in education consulting and with area mental health programs the past seven years, Smith, his wife and two young children lived most of that time in Russell. Their children attended school in Victoria, where Smith also got lots of coaching experience, both for Victoria teams participating in HRC programs and at Victoria Middle School.

That's what ultimately led Smith to the HRC when a fellow coach at Victoria told him of the job, which had been open since April when Kyle Emerson left for another job opportunity.

Stu Moeckel, a teacher and coach at Victoria High School, is the older brother of Ben Moeckel, director of Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex, who has worked at the HRC in several capacities the past several years. Stu Moeckel told Smith about the opening, and it was a good fit, said Roger Bixenman, HRC superintendent.

"He has a lot of coaching experience, and a lot of experience, period," said Bixenman, in his 20th year at the HRC. "We're glad to have him."

"This is what I'm interested in," added Smith, who stressed the importance of recreational activities, including sports, in an ultra-competitive society.

"Recreation (sports) should be for everybody. Get out there and play, get away from the X-Box and out from in front of the computer," he said. "Even if you're there for fun, there are lessons to be learned."

Smith knows the fall season will take him away from his family some. But he said he has gotten a lot of support from his wife, Torri, who is a social worker and is working on her master's degree in speech pathology at Fort Hays. Their children, 11-year-old Conner and 8-year-old Reagan, still attend school in Victoria and in the past have participated in HRC activities on Victoria teams.

However, this year the Smith siblings will be placed on Hays teams.

"They're excited about getting to know new kids," said Smith, who said he doesn't plan to start anything new at the time but get settled into the routine.

"I just want to continue building on the good programs they already have," he said of the HRC, "continue to give kids a way to participate. I want to make it enjoyable for everybody."