Preps Talk

Homewood-Flossmoor's Ken Shultz is a Hall of Famer

952959.png

Homewood-Flossmoor's Ken Shultz is a Hall of Famer

In his 26 years as a high school administrator, Ken Shultz experienced two embarrassing moments--when an unknowing groundskeeper painted a coach's box behind second base and when he was hosting a regional soccer tournament, turned on a recording of the National Anthem and realized he had forgotten to raise the American flag.

But the crowning achievement of his career was when he orchestrated the first random drug testing program for student-athletes at a high school in the United States.

Even if he hadn't accomplished anything else, that alone is enough to earn the retired athletic director at Homewood-Flossmoor a spot in the fourth Hall of Fame class of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA).

Shultz will be one of 10 athletic directors to be inducted on Dec. 18 during banquet festivities at the 43rd annual National Athletic Directors Conference at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas.

"When I got a letter from the National Federation, I was surprised," said Shultz, who retired in 2005 and is living in Leesburg, Florida. "You go through a career and do your job and hope you do it to the best of your ability. But you don't think about awards.

"It is very humbling to be recognized by your peers. But this award wouldn't have been possible without H-F, the Illinois Athletic Directors Association and the NIAAA. All of those things go into an award like this, not something I did. You have to have a lot of opportunities in your career."

Shultz made the most of his opportunities. He served as president of the Illinois Athletic Directors Association for one year and served on the organization's board of directors for nine years. At H-F, he supervised 28 varsity sports and 1,400 athletes, 120 coaches, the intramural program involving 1,500 participants, 100 extra-curricular clubs involving 2,000
students, dances, proms, homecomings and a 1 million budget.

But he will be remembered most of all for his courageous decision to launch a random drug-testing program for student-athletes at H-F, only the second school in the country to do it. And he can thank former football coach John Wrenn for that.

"He (Wrenn) came to me and said: 'I have kids I suspect are using illegal substances. I can't prove it but they need help. We need a way to identify kids who need help.' It wasn't a witch hunt or a punitive program. It was a way to help children," Shultz said.

So Shultz, Wrenn and other coaches and staff members spent about five months doing research and putting a plan together. They talked to doctors, hospitals, parents, even the ACLU. "All the coaches were on board but we had to sell the community," Shultz said.

They did the first drug test on Jan. 16, 1990. H-F received national publicity. Shultz appeared on many news outlets, including "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America" and other national news networks.

"Each week, we selected 30 kids at random," he said. "The program was designed to help kids, to help them reject peer pressure. We put it in place for 10 drugs and steroids. It still is in place today. It has lasted the test of time. And there have been no lawsuits. We did it right.

"We helped some kids. It is a good program for H-F. Most people think they can take care of drug issue through education and health classes. But people don't own up to the fact that they have a problem. This program also takes pressure off parents. But you have to commit to the program. Some schools have to live off gate receipts so a drug program is too expensive."

A graduate of Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, in 1966, Shultz participated in cross-country, basketball, baseball and track. He majored in physical education at the University of Illinois, graduating in 1970 and obtaining his masters degree in 1971.

"I wanted to coach," he said. "I had outstanding coaches in high school who were role models. I wanted to be a PE teacher and coach."

He married Kathy, his high school sweetheart, after his freshman year at Illinois and she worked to help him get through school.

He taught and coached at Western Illinois University for two years, then coached at Morris High School for six years. While at Morris, he got turned off to coaching and decided that sports administration would be a better career path.

"At Morris, I got the idea of what it is like to be a not-so-desirable athletic director," he said. "Coaches had to do their own scheduling, budgets, raise money, busing. After six years, I realized that is what an athletic director does. It whet my appetite for getting into athletic administration."

Shultz obtained his certificate and was hired as associate athletic director under John Stanley at H-F. After two years, he knew that he wanted to be an athletic director. But he had to pay his dues. He went to North Olmstead, Ohio, as district athletic director. After two years, he returned to H-F. He had his dream job. He never left again.

The key to being a successful athletic director, someone who is involved with the most visible aspects of everything that goes on at one of the state's most prestigious high schools?

"Surround yourself with good people," Shultz said. "You have to delegate things. You can't be everywhere 247. You get people who like kids. Then the programs will thrive. We always had good facilities. Coaches see that as a great plus. I tried to provide an environment where coaches can be successful and then get out of their way, allow them to coach kids and deal with kids."

According to Shultz, there are two kinds of leadership--management and leadership. A manager makes sure the buses show up and officials show up and arranges for the scheduling of events. But leadership is the inter-action of coaches and people.

"You have to be a good listener, a problem-solver," he said. "At my retirement party, (basketball coach) Roy Condotti said I was Mr. Problem-Solver. He said: 'When I came to him with a problem he fund a way to solve it.' I appreciated that comment more than anything else, that a coach had confidence to come to me. You have to be able to communicate to coaches."

His philosophy? To expand opportunities for student-athletes. The first thing he did when he was hired at H-F was to add seven sports. He had\ orientation meetings for kids and parents. He organized 96 teams in 28 sports, including freshman A, B and C squads.

"If you can't find something outside the classroom, you aren't looking," he said. "I cringe at specialization. I understand a coach's position. But a 5-foot-8 freshman basketball player might be 6-foot-5 as a junior. I believe you should let kids have an opportunity to enjoy all sports. They will choose their favorite sport by themselves as a junior."

But winning is important. "I would be lying if I said it wasn't," he said. He fired eight coaches in 22 years. But it wasn't so much because they were 0-9 but because they couldn't relate to their kids.

"You get a good barometer from the athletes," Shultz said. "I popped in at practices to see how things were going. I looked at how kids were reacting in practice, their energy, whether they were listening, if there was good communication, if they were treating each other with respect.

"I had to release some coaches with good records who didn't interact with kids. A coachathlete relationship is most important. Are kids enjoying their experience? You will lose them if they aren't having fun.

"An athletic director has to be pro-active. His job is so intense. You end up being reactive. You can't anticipate everything. But the longer you are in the profession, you can see if something is leading down the wrong road."

What about parents? Some cynical, longtime coaches argue that high school sports would be a wonderful experience--without parents. Shultz understands their frustration. But the reality of the situation--parents won't go away--means an athletic director must find a way to deal with the issue. Or it will become an issue.

"You have to channel their energies in a positive direction," he said. "In 26 years, I saw parents become more involved. They have a big investment in their kids...off-season competition, college scholarships. The first thing is to get the parents on your side."

Shultz organized "Meet the Coach Night," a series of preseason meetings between coaches and parents. "Parents can be your greatest advocate. You have to communicate with them. Don't be afraid to talk to parents. A coach has to have a thick skin. The worst thing is to shut out the parents. They can be a great support element for the programs," he said.

At H-F, Shultz said parents were involved. They wanted to hear about training rules, the random drug testing program and coaching rules.

"We did a good job of bridging the gap between parents and coaches," he said. "You must embrace the job. You must have a passion for the job. It is a journey. I enjoyed the challenges each day. You never know what will happen each day. There is always the unexpected each day. Every day isn't a great day. But as you go through that adversity, you will be stronger.

"It isn't a job that anyone can do. What do you need to do to be successful? You must be organized. You have to be a good communicator and problem-solver. And you have to have a good secretary. So many people look at the job as a destination. But it is a journey."

Today, Shultz enjoys life in his retirement community 40 miles north of Orlando, south of Ocala. He plays golf, works out and swims in the pool every day.

"But," he said with certainty, "there is nothing to get the juices going like going into an athletic director's job every day and not knowing what will happen, what challenges you will face that day."

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”