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10 Questions with Dennis Murphy: Exciting year of Pony sports on the way


August 7, 2014

Havre Daily News/File Photo

Havre High's Jordy Warren sets a pass during a Blue Pony volleyball match last fall. The start of the fall sports season is now just a week away.

As the summer wears on, the fall sports season gets closer and closer and before we know it, we will be watching football games Friday nights at Blue Pony Stadium.

It should be another exciting year for Havre High Sports and believe it or not the fall season is set to start in less than two weeks when the Havre High golf team competes in a tournament in Great Falls starting Aug. 18.

After a strong year in athletics that saw the Blue Ponies capture state championships in girls basketball and wrestling, to go along with strong showings in football, girls softball, girls tennis, boys tennis and swimming, the anticipation is high for the start of another sports season.

With that in mind, here are ten questions for Havre High Activities Director Dennis Murphy before the start of the new sports season.

HDN: With the gym renovations, what is going to be different?

Murphy: “Actually there will be nothing new with the gym. We will be increasing our locker rooms from three to four which will help when we host tournaments as well as stacked basketball games. We will now have a room for game officials so that they have their own room to go to dress and shower. Our weight room will increase in size which will allow us to bring in more fitness types of equipment, not just weights. Having the wrestling room on campus will be a great plus as students will not have to drive to practice, better shower facilities, won’t have to move mats for matches etc.”

HDN: Are there any changes in terms of scheduling?

Murphy: “This year there we will see no real changes in scheduling. Belgrade has added tennis so that is an additional tennis team in our conference. Whitefish and Columbia Falls have added swimming which they may come to our meet, but not sure yet. The 2015-16 year could bring changes to schedules of some Class A schools with Anaconda and Libby dropping down to Class B. There will be a different format for postseason for some sports with the reduction of teams. The specific format will be worked on this fall to prepare for 2015-16.”

HDN: Are there any new coaches for 2014-15?

Murphy: “We were fortunate to only have to hire one new head coach (softball), with Dan Wirtzberger taking the Laurel AD job. We have had to hire several new assistants however (10). We were fortunate to hire quality individuals who were willing to step up and coach. The assistants that moved on, were young coaches who took higher paying, permanent type of jobs.”

HDN: What are your thoughts about the current coaches who are in place at Havre High?

Murphy: “I believe we are very fortunate at Havre High School. We have head coaches that have passion for their activities. We have several veteran coaches who have had a tremendous amount of success in their careers which are great tools for our younger coaches to model or have access to. Most of our coaches are very easy to work with which makes the activities department run smoothly.”

HDN: What are all the sports that Havre High competes in at a varsity level?

Murphy: “Football, cross country, volleyball, swimming, basketball, wrestling, tennis, track and softball.”

HDN: When is the first sporting event of the fall sports season?

Murphy: “Golf. Their first meet will be Aug. 18-19 in Great Falls for a tournament. Football’s first game will be Aug. 30 with our froshmores playing Browning at 10 am followed by the varsity playing Whitefish in the annual BNSF Railway Game. Volleyball gets their first taste of competition Sept. 5 at Belgrade against Belgrade and Park.”

HDN: What are you most looking forward to about Havre High athletics in 2014-15?

Murphy: “2013-14 was a great year over all for HHS athletics and hopefully we will build on the momentum from last year. But most of all I look forward to watching our student-athletes compete, mature and progress in this stage of their lives.”

HDN: Is there anything different about conference alignment this year?

Murphy: “Not this year. There will be changes coming however in 2015-16.”

HDN: What is your biggest challenge as athletic director?

Murphy: “This is the best and toughest question you presented. I believe that there would be several different answers to this question if you asked other athletic directors. However, in my perspective some of the challenges that I view are: technology. Students, community members, parents, fans in general used to support athletes’ events because of the social aspect of the contests. They were the only game in town. People came to the game because it was their form of entertainment. With the advancement of technology it has made our life much easier, but often students don’t get involved with activities because they can reach the same type of satisfaction playing X-Box or through Facebook for example. Another challenge that ADs often face is parents not releasing their children to the game or coaches. Parents are more involved in sports with their children at a younger age, as they graciously coach them during their youth sports days. However, many have a tough time letting them go when they get to the junior high and high school level. Finding coaches and officials becomes more of a challenge each year. There are less people willing to coach and officiate now then there were in years past. There are fewer people who are willing to sacrifice the time commitment for the small pay that coaches get. Often times it is the outside influences that drive coaches away from the sport which as athletic directors we try to buffer our staffs from. Participation numbers is always a concern. As an athletic director being around high school sports for 34 years now I can see so many benefits for participating in high school activities, not just sports. I truly believe that sports and activities are some of the best things we can provide for our students to help prepare them for life.”

HDN: What kind of participation do you expect to get for Havre High sports in 2014-15?

Murphy: “I anticipate our participation numbers to go up this year. I have watched the incoming freshman compete over the years and it appears that those numbers are up from past years. Hopefully they will continue that trend and come out for the different sports and activities HHS has to offer. At Havre High we have seen a decline in the numbers that are participating in athletics, however, the number of students attending Havre High has also dropped. I actually keep records on the percentage of students who participate rather than the actual number. For example, when we had 840 students at HHS in 1990 we had 100 kids out for football (11.9 percent of the student population). Last year we were somewhere around 520 students with 60 out for football (11.5 percent). So even though our numbers are less the percentage is similar.”


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