After years of service, changes arrive to Activites Director position

In the fall of 2018,  Cedar Falls High School will be without one beloved, award-winning administrator and also see  one caring coach hang his clipboard and switch to fill that administrator’s position.

At the end of this year, Activity Director and Associate Principal Gary Konen is retiring. After 28 years of hard work, Koenen has left big shoes to fill. He plans to spend more time with family and and take part in activities he loves to do.

“I’ve been at Cedar Falls High for 25 years, and I have been athletic director/assistant principal for 28 years. It was time to go,” Koenen said. “I plan to spend a lot more time with family. I love to golf, so this summer, if we ever get summer, I will be doing that a lot more.”

After 23 years as men’s cross country coach, Troy Becker will be taking the position of athletic director. Unfortunately this means that the 2018 cross country men will lose a coach that “makes everyone feel involved with the team and inspires everyone to be the best version of themselves,”cross country member, sophomore Hollis Wilson said.

Accepting the position of athletics director was a bittersweet one for Becker, for if he accepted the position, he would no longer be able to coach men’s cross country, but to Becker, the position has always been on the horizon and has been a long time coming.

“We all have professional goals. The athletic director position was one of my professional goals that I have had for 20 years,” Becker said. “Because it’s a passion area of mine, it’s something that I would enjoy doing. Specifically doing it at Cedar Falls is important to me because I love Cedar Falls High School and the people at Cedar Falls schools and this community.”

Despite the athletics director position being one Becker has sought for for many years, there was a trade off by taking the position that he had to consider. “I thought about it a lot. Cross country is something I am very passionate about. Something I really love,” he said. “But, my main job in Cedar Falls Community Schools is working as an associate principal, or in this case, would be athletic director. I need to be able to put 100 percent of my effort into that position to make sure I am doing it successfully. Although I had to give up cross country, the reason I am doing that is to fulfill something that I ultimately want to do.”

Cross country is not just another sport for Becker, it’s a lifestyle. Former assistant coach of the men’s cross country team, Jeff Hartman, who worked with Becker for 25 years can attest to this. “Troy Becker is one of the most competitive people I know while also being one of the most caring. He wants to win every race but more importantly he cares about every runner on the team, regardless of ability,” he said. “He doesn’t just coach the 10 best runners on the team. He wants all 60 members of the team to work hard and be the best they can be. He celebrates when an athlete works hard and sets a new personal best, whether that PR is 23 minutes or 16 minutes.”

The cross country team that Becker has been with for 23 years is also experiencing bittersweet feelings at the loss of their coach. “I’m going to miss being around him every day at practice. Seeing coach Becker was always a bright spot in my day,”  junior men’s cross country team member Jens Jorgensen said.

Along with the feelings of sadness the men’s cross country team is experiencing over the loss of a “mentor and motivator,” the members are also excited for the new opportunity that Becker has dreamed of taking for many years.“My advice for him is to enjoy his new job. Athletic director has been a dream of his for so long, and I want him to enjoy every moment of this new experience. We’re gonna miss having around next year, but I wish him the best of luck at his new job,” Jorgensen said.

Although the leap from a coach of an activity pursued by a large number of guys to multiple activities pursued by students all over the school is rather massive, Koenen and Hartman are confident that  Becker can handle the added workload. Hartman said Becker “doesn’t say no to people and always jumps at the chance to help others out even though I know he has work of his own to do.”

Koenen said, “He has been helping me for years, kind of my assistant athletic director, so he knows the program. He knows what I do, my responsibilities. We have worked side by side, and we have done that for years, so it will be very seamless when he steps into the role next year. It will be great.”

Becker is also confident that as he steps into this new position he will have Koenen by his side, helping him out. “I feel very fortunate that he is still going to be in the community, and I’m hoping that I can meet with him frequently and ask questions, and he can continue to be a mentor for me. He’s been a good friend, a good mentor and a good leader of our activities. I have learned a lot from him,” Becker said.

Becker plans on adding to the ‘tremendous’ work that Koenen has already done at the high school as he steps into the position of athletic director. “Mr. Koenen has done a tremendous job, obviously. One of the first things I want to do is to get in and just try to do a good as job as he has done,” Becker said. “Over time I think changes will come about by working with my coaches and taking suggestions from them because what I want to do is help them be successful in their programs. If there are changes, those will be driven by advice, input I get by coaches.”

Leaving the high school and all the joy it will bring will be tough for Koenen as he has spent his days working for almost three decades. “I’ll miss the students the most,” Koenen said. “I’m honored to work with our students every day, and I’m amazed at how talented our students are in so many areas—whether it be athletics, music, drama, student government, etc.  I’ve been privileged to witness our students achieve success over the years.”

Becker is confident that all this evolution will be for the best. “Change is hard. We all have changes in life. Sometimes you have to do those things in life, and it’s all a matter of what you make of it, so, I am going to try to be positive with it,” he said.

Koenen also embraces his changes ahead, as well as Becker’s. “I’m sure he will have new ideas on ways to make the programs even better, and I have confidence he will do that, and I’m sure I will be helping out a lot more around here too with the activities and with Mr. Becker when he takes over too,” he said.

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