GAME CHANGER WITH KEITH KILGORE
BY BRADLEY LINAM | PHOTO BY MARK STRICKLAND PHOTOS
Being an athletic administrator requires long hours, lots of organization and the ability to make tough decisions in a sometimes thankless occupation. The start of the pandemic made the role of athletic director harder than ever before. 2020 was a year that changed the course of high school athletics in the state of Arkansas and will not soon be forgotten.
In August of 2020, athletic directors had a monumental task at hand in order to get student-athletes back in competition– safely. This took buy-in from coaches at all levels to follow Arkansas Department of Health guidelines around social-distancing, hand-washing, masking and many other directives.
Keith Kilgore is one of the many local school Athletic Directors that faced those challenges head-on and continues to face the same challenges today. As the District Athletic Director for Rogers Public Schools, Kilgore is responsible for overseeing the athletic activities of Rogers and Heritage High Schools as well as four feeder schools. During the course of the pandemic, Kilgore was able to orchestrate the opening of multiple new athletic facilities and the installation of top-of-the-line video boards for some of them. That is an impressive accomplishment in any time frame, but even more impressive in the face of a global pandemic and the uncertainty that came along with it.
We were able to have a conversation with him recently where he talked about the challenges the district faced and how they overcame adversity and completed their pre-Pandemic expansion plans.
Q: How has the pandemic directly affected your work as an Athletic Director?
A: The decision to shut down athletics last spring was difficult, but the priority was the safety of our student-athletes and staff. As we gained knowledge about the virus and received strict guidelines from the Arkansas Department of Health, we were able to implement and resume play last year.
Q: What has the pandemic added to your duties that weren’t there before?
A: When the season started in August we began requiring masks, daily questioning, screenings, and social distancing. It became the new standard. I am tremendously proud of our administrative staff and coaches who put in countless hours to ensure our school community was safe to continue with sports. We encountered many challenges along the way but hosting events during COVID required strategic planning. From online ticketing to hiring additional event staff, reducing facility capacities and adhering to ADH directives.
Q: What will you remember most about the 2020 pandemic as it relates to your position and the athletes and coaches you lead?
A: 2020 will be remembered as the year of COVID, but from my perspective watching the resilience and tenacity of our teams’ fighting to complete their sports season will be a lasting impression!
Q: We’re interested to hear about the new facilities you’ve recently opened.
A: We were able to open new arenas and wrestling rooms at both Heritage and Rogers as well as baseball and softball complexes at both campuses. You will be hard pressed to find any better facilities than the venues in the Rogers Public Schools. Our facilities will be enjoyed by our community for decades to come. It was a shared vision by the Rogers Board of Education and Rogers Community to provide our students with the very best.
Q: Being in such a high pressure position, what are some things you enjoy doing away from the office to get your mind off of work?
A: Nothing better than sitting in a deer stand before dawn or throwing a line in the water, I continue to coach travel baseball and enjoy swinging a golf club when time allows!