*This article appears in the Oct. 20 edition of the Puyallup Tribal News. Photo by Rocky Ross
The Puyallup Tribal News recently caught up with new athletic director Scott Halasz to get a snapshot of his goals and plans for Chief Leschi athletics. Already having garnered some success as the head coach of the boys’ basketball program, Halasz brings a commitment and excitement to his new position, and it looks as though the Warrior Nation’s athletics are in some fresh, capable hands.
Puyallup Tribal News – Scott, when did you first come to Chief Leschi and what rolls did you fill at the school?
Scott Halasz – I arrived at Chief Leschi in 2013 as a paraeducator for elementary kids and an assistant basketball coach for the high school boys. Prior to that, I served four years in the Air Force as well as played four years of college basketball. I was ready for a career change from security and police work and fresh out of college. I had a passion for coaching, so I jumped at the Chief Leschi opportunity. Working on the elementary side and coaching on the high school side gave me a real feel for the journey these kids take at a K-12 school. They are all closely knit and have a real family oriented vibe. This is where the root of my #WarriorFamily motto originated.
PTN – After a very successful basketball season, at some point you became the man the school was looking for to take over as athletic director. This was obviously a huge, new endeavor for you. How did you approach it.
SH – When accepting the athletic director position at Chief Leschi I reflected back on my five-year journey from elementary para, to teacher, to head basketball coach, and realized this was my true purpose at Leschi. The opportunity to learn about these kids and where they come from and what they have been through has prepared me to take a leadership role over the athletic department. I truly thank the tribal council, school board, my superintendent and all other administrators along the way who have believed in me, and think I can be the one to make a difference. I have approached this the same as I approached the basketball program – with hard work, commitment, and dedication.
During the past two years while coaching basketball, I was also getting my master’s degree in sports management. It really created a special bond between the players and myself. I demanded they uphold an academic standard, and I was able to show them that I was holding myself to that same standard as a student. The same went with our dedication on the court. Many days my assistant Rob Crawford and I actually laced up and practiced with our players to show them we are willing to do whatever it takes to help them get better. The respect gained from that has brought our team dynamic to an all-time high and has solidified the meaning behind why we are #WarriorFamily.
PTN – It’s been a difficult season for football and volleyball this year, but they’ve shown no quit on the field and on the court. We hear that you have a new outlook on the program that should grow some deep roots for your student-athletes and the athletic program itself. Tell us about it.
SH – Our new outlook is to provide consistency, stability, and a dedicated coaching staff that are here to stay, and that want to put in the hard work to change things. We made it a priority to find staff that truly care about the kids and believe in them. We want mentors that can teach kids that sports teach you more than just wins and losses, but how to live life as a successful person after CLS. We believe we have those people in place and that things will soon be changing for all sports at CLS. People just need to understand it is a process. Cross country and track and field have proven that, as they fly beneath the radar under the helm of Coach Mike Williams and send kids to state year after year. The basketball program has proven that with its rise back to prominence. Now it is time we get every program on track.
PTN – There is such a unique culture at Chief Leschi that doesn’t exist in the other schools around Tacoma. How do you get youths interested in lacing up the shoes for the first time and follow it up with dedication to their team?
SH – We have a good youth services program that offers a variety of sports through the tribal youth center. We also have had real success at the middle school level. Cross country, basketball and volleyball have all won championships in the past three years. We just have to make a stronger, more stable bridge for those athletes as they enter high school. That is what we are concentrating on. I have been truly impressed with the behind the scenes work I see from my football, cheer, and volleyball programs this year led by Josh Bellinger (football), Trenecsia Bellinger (cheer), and Monique Ward (volleyball). It might not show on the scoreboard, but in the classroom, weight room, and at practice I am seeing them gain trust and respect from their athletes through their dedication and hard work. That will pay huge dividends in the future for those programs.
PTN – Turning young men and women into adults ready to face the world is obviously the big goal here. Outside of wins and losses, how can supporters of CLS see the real progress that is happening behind closed doors?
SH – Sports has a real opportunity to be the heartbeat of the school at CLS. Our athletes, regardless of the outcome on the field or court, have become leaders and role models around the school. With my roots coming from the elementary side, I know how much the little warriors look up to the big warriors so it is important that we create positive role models. Our athletes have become more successful in the classroom, which in the end improves our graduation rate. At a small school level we want every athlete to be a three-sport athlete no matter their skill level. Not only does that help them compliment skills at whatever sport they are best at, but it also helps them stay consistent in the classroom with eligibility. The ultimate goal is to give them the opportunity to be successful after CLS. We can use athletics at CLS to launch them towards that success.
PTN – When teams can’t pull themselves out of a skid during a season, it’s very hard on them emotionally and physically. Despite the losses, the CLS Warriors continue to hit the field and the courts with everything they have. This seems like a big step in the maturity process for them.
SH – This is often overlooked, but is actually one of the CLS athletes’ strongest attributes. They are willing to meet adversity day in and day out just for the opportunity to compete. To me that means passion and warrior pride is deep down inside them. You just need the right coaches to connect and get that out of them. We have that in place now and you will see things begin to change within the athletics department moving forward.
PTN – Do you foresee a day when some of the other CLS sports programs begin to catch up with the success of the basketball programs?
SH – As AD my plan is to mimic the basketball, track, and cross country programs. That entails consistency, structure, and dedication to go above and beyond for these kids. Michael Williams and I have tasted great success because of those simple things. Once a Leschi Warrior knows you are here to stay and that you truly care about them they turn into a completely different student-athlete. I have seen it with my own eyes over the past five years. All these kids need is a #WarriorFamily behind them and anything is possible.
PTN – We get the feeling that your new gig, along with your experiences so far at CLS are much more than a job for you. Stand up on that soap box for a moment and tell us why your heart bleeds for this Puyallup Tribal community.
SH – I soon realized after my first year at CLS that the kids helped me find myself as a person. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my life. After four years in the military and a college basketball career, I was searching for a purpose. The kids at CLS brought out a passion within me that I myself didn’t know existed. I fell in love with coaching and watching them adapt and overcome obstacles. I thought to myself that this is what I was meant to do. The only way I could think to repay these kids for that was to give them everything I have as a coach, teacher, mentor, and now athletic director. I am now blessed with the opportunity to not only make an impact on my basketball players, but also the rest of the athletic program. There will be bumps in the road and obstacles to overcome, being new to this position, but my love for Leschi athletics bleeds blue and gold. I truly believe in the CLS athletes and I have seen their potential. The sky is the limit with the #WarriorFamily.