By Dena Martin
the Times 

New combine Athletic Director looks forward to the season

Nicki Luper says season prep has been busy, challenging and rewarding


September 5, 2019

DAYTON/WAITSBURG-Rather than having separate athletic directors for both Dayton and Waitsburg, the athletic combine advisory committee recommended hiring one director to oversee the combine. Both school boards approved the recommendation and Luper was selected and accepeted the position in June.

Luper was hired as the Dayton School District Athletic Director in November of 2018. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in physical education and health from the University of Idaho and a Masters Degree in athletic administration from WSU – Vancouver where she attended classes on the Clark Community College Campus, while coaching track & field there.

Luper said the change to a single AD was made with the intent to streamline how the programs are run in terms of registering student athletes for participation, practice and game schedules, transportation scheduling, facility schedules, and to help reduce some of the responsibilities on administrators in both districts.

"The current system is still operating under two different athletic codes but now there is one person for the students, coaches and parents to seek information or assistance from when needed," Luper said.

She said having one AD also improves communication between Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) and the Eastern Washington Athletic Conference (EWAC), and coaches, school boards and the community.

"The WIAA is going through significant changes this year. The Association has a new Executive Director, 2 new Assistant Executive Directors and 3 new members on the Executive Board. It will be important in the next few years for schools to be aware of any changes that could impact our students and have a voice in the process. Athletic programs are an important part of the high school experience for students and our communities. There is significant time and planning involved when it comes to running education based athletic programs and many items to juggle at one time. The trick and challenge is to keep everything progressing and moving along smoothly," Luper said. 

Luper's position is part-time, and she splits her hours between offices in both Dayton and Waitsburg. Luper said she will also attend games and practices on the days she is in the area.

"For the past few weeks I have been here more often to get students registered to participate, assist coaches and get everything ready for the fall season and school year," Luper said.

Current cleared fall athletes show 34 high school football players, 14 high school volleyball players, seven high school cheerleaders, six middle school football players and seven middle school volleyball players. Luper said some students need to complete paperwork and more students are participating each day.

"It is my hope that we can get students from both districts and the communities to attend contests and cheer on our teams. When students leave high school, many will not have the opportunity to compete on a team, try a new sport, and receive the benefits that sports have to offer. The combine is providing students the opportunity to participate and make their high school experience memorable," Luper said.

So far, Luper said the pre-season has been busy, challenging and rewarding.

On the challenge end, Luper said she is disappointed that two non-league volleyball games were not honored in the two-year cycle agreement, but that they will continue to try and fill the openings.

Transportation has also been a challenge, with a shortage of bus drivers, even though a dedicated athletic combine driver position was approved by both school boards. Luper said she believes a solution worked out with Columbia County Public Transportation will get students home after practice earlier and will be consistent through the season.

"The transit can provide buses to meet our needs and timelines at a very affordable rate. This will allow teams to start practice no later than 3:45 and home before 7 p.m. Without this option we would have had to wait for our regular route driver to finish their daily routes and then take students to practice which would be well after 4 p.m. A shortage of bus drivers is not unique to Dayton and Waitsburg it is a problem statewide. This option gave us flexibility to get practice completed early, teams will not need to wait for everyone to finish practices if one group needs more time for practice and it is cost effective," Luper said.

"The most positive thing this week are that coaches are back and excited for the future. The students are back and have a positive outlook on the season. The hallways have been too quiet so it is nice to have students kind of breath excitement back into the schools again and make some noise!" she added.

"The administrative teams, support staff and coaches have been very supportive and helpful. I am hoping we get more students from both districts turning out for high school or middle school volleyball or football in the next week or so. Then I look forward to watching students demonstrate what they have learned during competitions and fans cheering them on," she said.

Luper said that community volunteers are more than welcome to fill needed spots in concessions, operating scoreboards and/or clocks for middle school and sub-varsity games, volleyball line judges and general supervision. In the winter, help with basketball scoreboards and shot clocks will be needed.

Interested volunteers can contact Luper at or stop by the district office in either Waitsburg or Dayton to pick up volunteer paperwork.

"This is a great opportunity to get involved, give back and enjoy watching students participate," Luper said.


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