District Athletic Director honored in Orlando

Second-year district athletic director for the Lee’s Summit School District Rich Bechard recently received a prestigious award at the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) in Orlando.

The soft-spoken Bechard received the NIAAA’s Award of Merit at the National Athletic Director Conference on Dec. 15.

“The Award of Merit is the most prestigious award presented by the NIAAA to an individual who has shown outstanding leadership in interscholastic athletics,” says Bechard. “It is only given in years when the NIAAA Board of Directors feel there is a deserving individual.”

This may be just his second year in charge of athletics in the Lee’s Summit School District, but he has had a long career in athletic administration. And he got into the business almost by accident.

“While I was coaching at Stockton (Kansas), one day the principal said he needed someone to do some AD work and asked if I would be willing to do it,” says Bechard. “I told him I would.

“He then went on to say there would be no pay and you still have to be a full-time teacher, but I still agreed to do it.”

That same year he attended to the Kansas State Athletic Director’s Conference.

“I was so impressed that I knew that is what I wanted to do full time,” he says. “I immediately went to work on my master’s in administration so I could become a full time AD.”

Bechard has a long and successful career in high school sports administration.

He served as a full time AD at Holton, KS for 16 years and then in 2006 he became the district athletic director for the Blue Valley School District.

Bechard came to Lee’s Summit in the fall of 2014.

“I oversee all our athletic and activities programs at our three high schools and three middle schools,” he says.

What is his philosophy of sports administrators?

“I believe as an athletic administrator, it is my duty to set an example for the school community to follow,” he says. “I believe the primary purpose of interscholastic athletics and activity programs are to instill the necessary traits in our students for success in later life. They should be character building and educationally based.”

Bechard has received numerous awards during his years as a sports administrator.

The Grinnell, Kansas native played sports in high school and college. He played football, basketball, baseball and participated in track at the small western Kansas town. He went on to play basketball at Barton County Community College and finished his degree at Fort Hays State. After finishing college, he became a teacher and coach in Kansas.

“I was a teacher and coach for 10 years,” he says. “I coached football, basketball and track and field.

“I coached for nine years at Stockton, Kansas and one year at Norton, Kansas.”

Bechard has some highlights from his career as a sports administrator.

“Tne of the highlights of my career was serving on the NIAAA Board of Directors from 2010 to 2013 and in 2012 I served as the President of the NIAAA,” he says.

And he comes from a family that has been heavily involved in sports.

“Athletics have always been part of my life,” he says. “I grew up in a large family with two sisters and four brothers all competing in athletics in middle and high school.

Rich and two brothers became coaches and brother Harold went into sports writing.

Brother Don was a success as a volleyball and basketball coach until losing a battle with cancer six years ago while coaching at Gardner-Edgerton in Kansas.

And brother Ray is the volleyball coach at the University of Kansas. His Jayhawks made it to the NCAA Final Four this season, losing to eventual champion Nebraska in the semifinals.