Boulder Valley School District

‘I’ve seen what it has done for me.’ BVSD’s Director of Athletics and Activities is proud to support a new generation of student-athletes

‘I’ve seen what it has done for me.’ BVSD’s Director of Athletics and Activities is proud to support a new generation of student-athletes
Randy Barber

There is something special about the places where sports are played. The commotion of a  gymnasium, the humidity of the pool and the fresh cut grass of a well-manicured field can bring us back to a special place in our childhoods.

For Harry Waterman, Boulder Valley School District’s director of athletics and activities, these were the places where he found belonging as a child.

“It was my niche,” Waterman said. “A lot of my friends and my connections were through athletics. I've seen what it's done for me. The characteristics (it has instilled). I still think about some of the coaches that impacted me.”

That is why Waterman loves his job – the ability to give that experience to a new generation.

“I just know how important it was for me,” Waterman said. “For a lot of kids today that have struggles, this is something that keeps them involved and it keeps them academically eligible. In order to do some of the things that they very much love, they have to stay eligible with their grades. And that saves a lot of kids.”

For him, as a student-athlete, it was wrestling and baseball. He knows many kids will find their niche in other places.

“It’s not just the sports, it is the activities too,” Waterman said. “It's the bands, the plays, the concerts and clubs. All of those things are ways to connect. Ultimately the classroom is number one, but every one of these other extracurricular areas is an extension of that classroom. There are so many great benefits to our extracurriculars. Students have an opportunity to connect with someone in another way and meet a new group of people and have a new group of friends.”

From student-athlete to PE teacher to administrator - sports has always been at the core
Harry says he knew early on that he wanted to stay involved in athletics even after finishing high school.

“I am lucky enough to have been able to stay involved with that my whole career,” Waterman said. “I feel very fortunate to be in an area where I'm very passionate.”

He studied kinesiology as an undergraduate at the University of Northern Colorado, in his home town of Greeley, and went into education.

“I started out as a PE health teacher, and that just evolved,” Waterman said. 

He taught for six years in the Aurora Public Schools, before returning to Greeley for a teaching and head wrestling coach position at UNC’s University Laboratory School. During his six years there, he got his first taste of administration as an athletic director for two years..

“I really liked the leadership piece,” Waterman said. I then became an assistant principal and athletic director at my alma mater, Greeley West High School.”

He served as an AP/AD at Greeley West for eight years, before becoming the assistant commissioner at the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA),

“At CHSAA, I spent nine years overseeing a number of different sports and activities, primarily wrestling, football, student leadership, and lacrosse. I dabbled a little bit in some other areas, but that was another amazing experience for nine years,” Waterman remembered.

In 2017, an outstanding opportunity pulled him back to the school-level. He was provided an opportunity to help open a brand new school in School District 27J.

That role gave him a deep understanding of not only the deep pride that every school has in their mascots and traditions, but also how hard they can be to create because he was part of the team at Riverdale Ridge High School that had to develop everything – even choosing the Ravens as the school’s mascot.

“You take it all for granted when you move from one school to the other. When you start with a new school, you don't have anything. You don't have a school mascot. You don't have school colors. You don’t have traditions. You don't even have furniture. You build it from the ground up. To have some say in how everything is developed – that was really a great experience.”

More than watching sports all day
If you’re envying Waterman right now, imagining that he gets to sit back and watch sports all day, you’re only partially right. Sure, he often spends his evenings at different events across the district, but during the day his job is guiding and mentoring BVSD leaders in athletics and activities.

“I'm more of a support,” Waterman shares. “I help with parent issues or with coaching issues. A lot of mentoring, trying to bring new coaches along and show them what needs to be done and help them to become leaders,” Waterman said. “I work closely with middle school and high school principals and assistant principals, making sure we're coordinated with the various operational  departments to make sure we're coordinated with  transportation, hiring of coaches, officials and game workers and all of the details.”

He says it has become harder and harder to recruit folks into coaching and referee roles, as sporting events have become more adversarial nationwide.

“It's a sad state,” Waterman said. “It is so discouraging. It is running people out of the business. Neither officials nor coaches do it for the money. They do it for the passion of the game and for the kids.” 

Unfortunately, he says that folks have become too focused on their own kids and wanting  them to “win” at any cost.

“I think people lose sight of the perspective of what this is all about,” Waterman said. “This is about building lifelong skills, experiences and character for kids, and they're going to go through challenges - sports create challenges. Each challenge is a great opportunity to learn in life. When you compete for that first job in the real world, you may not get it, but you get back out there and continue to compete. You're going to win some and you're going to lose some, that’s life”

Of course there are bright spots too. In his role he helps to coordinate a number of district-wide events, including those for Unified Sports. These uplifting events bring together students with special needs and their classmates. Last fall there was a Unified Bowling tournament and in January students from across the district gathered for the Unified Ninja Warrior event. This spring students will have the opportunity to participate in Unified Basketball.

Getting to Know Harry

On the Road Again
Just about every day Harry travels 102 miles round trip between work in Boulder Valley and his home in Aurora. 

He says he doesn’t mind having some time to himself before and after work, but admits that this commute is on the long side.

“It's nice to have a little wind up and wind down time,” Waterman said. “I don't need an hour. 15 or 20 minutes would be nice.”

While he sometimes tunes into podcasts or music  while he drives, he often uses the time to strategize and to wrap up loose ends.

“I'm able to catch up with phone calls that I didn't have time to do during the day,” Waterman said. 

And, sure, the E-470 toll road can help speed his journey, but that can be pretty tough on the wallet with tolls costing $37 for the round trip.

If I Could Turn Back Time
You’d think that Harry probably gets his fill of sports during the day, but after he gets home, you can often find him out rooting on his kids, Calen and Peyton – a senior and a junior, respectively, at Cherokee Trail High School.

“I love watching them play baseball and soccer,” Waterman said. “That's where I spend a great deal of time, watching them compete.”

Like many parents, he is trying to slow down time, knowing that high school graduation is approaching quickly for both of them.

“I only have a year and a half left with my two kids, so I love spending time with them,” Waterman said.

I’m On a Boat
Harry says that he, his wife Kari and his kids love all things outdoorsy. While he enjoys skiing, he is partial to the summertime when they can do a lot of hiking, golfing and water skiing.

They spend a lot of time on a lake up north near Wellington. 

“We spend a lot of time at the lake in the summer,” Waterman said. “It's a nice little spot. It is not a public lake, so it's not as crazy and dangerous as going to some of those other places, like Cherry Creek or Chatfield. It is a good time.”


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