Sisters athletic director earns honors
Last updated 6/15/2021 at Noon
Outlaws Athletic Director Gary Thorson is the Oregon 4A Athletic Director of the Year for 2020-2021.
The Oregon Athletic Directors Association (OADA) state athletic director of the year award was established to recognize outstanding athletic directors in recognition of contributions to interscholastic athletics at the local, state, and national levels made while serving as an athletic director at an Oregon high school.
“This recognition is long overdue for Gary,” said Sisters High School Principal Joe Hosang. “The guy can’t say no and works so extremely hard. Most people don’t see what he does to keep athletics moving forward. He will come in early on Sundays and work late at night to schedule, reschedule, make phone calls, set up transportation, connect with officials, and then do it all again when a game is changed. He works countless hours to help the coaches fundraise, ordering and ensuring every coach has the appropriate training.”
Hosang went on, “On top of his full-time position, he teaches a physical education class, coached football, coached wrestling, and still organized events at school. He does all of this for the high school and he is also the middle-school athletic director. Gary does this quietly and very rarely asks for any help. He is amazing, and the Sisters School District is a better place because of him.”
The selection process for the award begins with nominations submitted by current and former associates, school personnel, community members, which are then evaluated by an awards committee and approved by the OADA executive board.
Longtime friend and colleague Neil Fendall said, “Gary Thorson is one of the hardest working people you will ever encounter. He never stops — literally — he is always moving.”
Fendall added, “I don’t know what drives his work ethic, but from observing him over 7-8 years, I believe it comes from his enjoyment of kids. He truly loves providing experiences for kids. Most people will never know how much he does for Sisters High School and Sisters School District.”
Thorson reflected on the honor.
“Growing up I had such a positive experience in athletics so it drives me to want to do the best I can to give our students a great experience as well,” he said. “From the start of my athletic career to the end, along the way I had multiple coaches who pushed me to not only be a better athlete but more importantly a better person as well. I would be a shell of the person I am had I not had some of the coaches in my life that I did, and it energizes me to get to see our students in the district get those same influences and experiences as well.”
The 2020-21 school year presented incredible challenges for high school sports. The regular three seasons were jammed into less than half a year leaving athletic directors like Thorson scrambling to make schedules that could work. COVID-19 protocols made travel a challenge. No fans were allowed for some time. Athletes had to train and compete with masks on.
And Thorson pushed through, helping ensure Outlaws athletes had a chance to have an experience this year.
Thorson said, “It was important for everyone in the role of an AD or coach to give the athletes the best experience they could despite the pandemic. And I think here in Sisters, and across the state, a lot of good things happened for kids.”
He continued, “I am humbled by getting this award and I can honestly say anyone who has sat in an athletic director’s chair this year was deserving of it. I could never put into words how much of a zoo it was with all the rescheduling, starts and restarts, restrictions, guidelines, etc.”
Thorson appreciates the support he has had from his colleagues and family.
“As ADs we were all stretched more than ever, and luckily I had the support and help of our office staff and an understanding group of coaches to help get me through the year. With me coaching two sports this year, I also got to feel the pains and frustrations that our coaches felt, and they are well deserving of recognition as well.
“I have to mention my gratitude and appreciation for my wife, Lisa, as well,” he said. “More than ever she had to bear the burden of an AWOL husband and father and pick up the slack for me this year. She was very supportive and understanding and I cannot thank her enough.”