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Daily Republic Q&A: SDHSAA's Carney shares experiences, goals

From the off season, throughout the regular season and into the state tournaments, the South Dakota High School Activities Association is providing support and setting the guidelines for student athletes and fine arts performers.

For going on 14 years, Wayne Carney has been the executive director of the SDHSAA. Through his time with the association, Carney has focused on the betterment of all high school activities in South Dakota's member schools.

Carney has been involved with athletics and fine arts in South Dakota high schools for more than 40 years.

In an interview with The Daily Republic on Wednesday, Carney talked about his experiences, current issues and future plans for the SDHSAA.

Here are few of the excerpts from the nearly hour long interview:

Q: What is your role with the SDHSAA and what is your day-to-day schedule like?

A: I serve as the executive director of the activities association and have since 2001. My day-to-day activities center around the day-to-day administration of the association. I deal with all of the financial matters. I am in charge of the budget and anything that goes along those lines. I work on getting the budget together from year-to-year for all of our athletic and fine arts programs, as well as all of the general expenses of the administration. I do all of the eligibility interpretations. We deal with an awful lot of open enrollment situations. I also deal with the investigations and disciplinary matters. A big part of my job is preparing for the six board meetings that take place throughout the school year.

Q: What are the goals of the SDHSAA?

A: We believe that the interscholastic activities programs enrich each student's educational experience. They teach lessons outside the classroom that are very important. The activities hopefully assist students to become lifelong learners and understand the importance of competition, working together and discipline. As we look at test scores, not just in South Dakota, but nationwide, studies that have been done have proven time and time again that activities support the academic mission of schools. They are not a diversion, but an extension of a good educational program.

Q: How did you get your start with the SDHSAA?

A: I started teaching and coaching at Agar High School in 1970. Agar no longer has a high school and I was there until 1977. From there I went on to Hamlin High School, where I was a teacher, coach and athletic director. I was president of the Athletic Directors Association for one year. I was president of the Coaches Association for one year. In 1994, I had the opportunity to apply for a position at Sioux Falls Washington as an athletic director. So that fall, my family and I moved to Sioux Falls. The last four years I was at Washington, I was the assistant principal in charge of activities, or as it's more commonly known, the activities director. During the time I was at Washington, I was fortunate enough to be elected to the board of directors at the activities association and I served a five-year term from 1995 to 2000, serving as the board chairman for two years. Our son was going to graduate and so my wife and I talked. We were going to be empty nesters. So we thought why not apply for the association's executive director job. I have been here now going on 14 years.

Q: What has been the biggest change in South Dakota activities you have seen in your career?

A: The biggest thing in my mind is the technology. We no longer have typewriters. The fax machine is almost a thing of the past. Our postal budget has shrunk dramatically even over the 14 years I've been here. Going paperless for all of our meetings. Rosters and schedules are online, which is a big plus for parents and fans who want to go on and check. Another big change has been South Dakota Public Broadcasting, which has brought all of our activities, both athletic and fine arts, to a worldwide audience. It's fun to get the emails after state events from service men and women who are stationed all around the world who are able to go online and watch them. We have also added new programs, with competitive cheer and dance, soccer and this year with the visual arts component to our fine arts program. Starting with the 2015-16 school year, show choir will be added. I know Mitchell has a very strong show choir program, so that will be exciting.

Q: How has the SDHSAA dealt with the emergence of technology?

A: We have embraced it. Technology is here and it is not going away. It changes every day, more so because a lot of the people we serve are becoming more and more tech savvy. They want to be able to take out their handheld device and watch different events. We need to learn with it and grow with it. As we do, we will be come a more service-centered organization and that's what we are.

Q: Has the live broadcast of the state events caused a drop in attendance?

A: We have not seen that yet. A lot of states have and that is always a concern we have. But give South Dakota fans a lot of credit. If their teams are in, they want to be in the building. As I go to national conventions, and if you listen to the executive directors from other states talk, the advancement in technology has led to some attendance drops. But so far we have not seen a negative impact on our attendance.

Q: Are you seeing more cities looking to build new facilities to bring in state events?

A: Even De Smet is building a $4 million fine arts building. De Smet, with a high school of less than 100 kids, so that gives you some idea of the size of the community. Yet they are very progressive and have put a lot of thought into this. It's not just the large schools. It's the old Field of Dreams. If you build it, they will come. I think you are probably going to see more and more facilities being built, because this next generation -- and even my generation -- want that indoor facility to go to.

Q: Are cities that are looking at building new facilities in contact with the SDHSAA about what they need to have to attract more state events?

A: We have what is called state event hosting guidelines. It's a 46-page document, which is online for anybody to go look at it. In direct relation to the question, the answer is yes, but they don't have to call us to find out. If a city is contemplating building, they can contact their athletic director and their athletic director can take them right to that document. There is an old saying. You don't build a church for Easter. You have to have other things that fill that facility up.

Q: Why are so many state events held in Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Aberdeen?

A: When you look at the events we host, there are events that only Sioux Falls and Rapid City can host. Tennis can only be hosted in Sioux Falls or Rapid City. There are only three cities right now that can host a state boys basketball event. When you look at track, there are only two sites. Sioux Falls and Rapid City both are going to look like they are hosting more events than anybody else. Aberdeen hosted the most events in 2013-14, Rapid City was second and Sioux Falls was third. When you look at 2015-16, Sioux Falls hosts five events, but when you look at those you know they are going to have a track, they are going to have a basketball and you know they are going to have tennis. So with three of their five, there is no place else to go.

Q: What is the toughest thing you have to deal with in your job?

A: The most difficult thing for me is dealing with the waiver rules. We have some kids that you can't even make it up what they have gone through just trying to get an education. To declare a young person ineligible is really not a fun thing to do. Our goal is to make sure every student that wants to participate can, but they have to do it by the rules that our member schools have put in place.

Q: What is the best thing about your job?

A: I think the greatest thing is working with the school administrators at the events and watching young people compete, whether it be in athletics or fine arts. One of the events we host that I think is great is the All-State Chorus and Orchestra. We filled the Sioux Falls Arena last year. I think we had three tickets left. It is an absolutely outstanding concert with 1,000 kids in the chorus and 200 kids in the orchestra. I get to work with a great staff. There are a lot of great things about my job.