For his efforts within the school district, Pequot Lakes Activities Director Marc Helmrichs was recognized as the State Class A Activities Director of the Year.
"I was surprised," said Helmrichs, who has served as an activities director for more than 30 years. "It was not a phone call I expected. It is very humbling ... I knew I was a candidate, but I never thought I would be the one receiving the award."
Helmrichs said being an activities director was never really his plan, but that plan changed right out of college when he was hired to teach, coach and serve as the activities director for the Isle School District.
"It was part of the first job I was offered, and there was no negotiation ... The only thing that saved me is that we were on a four-day week back then, so I had that day off where I could come in and do stuff a first-year teacher needs to do and the stuff an AD who has never been an AD needs to do," Helmrichs said.
"(Being an AD) was a part of the job, and I learned on the fly. As I got into the job, I found it to be something I enjoyed doing, and I feel very fortunate that I have been able to do something I enjoy for all these years," he said.
Helmrichs spent 17 years in Isle before accepting a full-time AD position in Hibbing and shortly thereafter making his way to Pequot Lakes in 2006.
"One of the reasons I was interested in coming here is that not many schools this size have committed to having a full-time AD. That was certainly an interesting part of it for me. I was under the impression this was a district that supported activities, and I have found that to be true."
After 30 years behind the desk of an activities department, Helmrichs said what he enjoys most about the job is the variety.
"You are never sure," Helmrichs said. "You have all of these nuts and bolts that you have to take care of - basic stuff you know you'll do seasonally or weekly - but there is always something new and exciting that comes up."
Though he is now a seasoned activities director, he makes it his goal to focus on the experience of the student, along with anyone else who experiences the positive aspects of school activities for the first time.
"The thing I try to remind myself is that no matter how many times I have been through something, it is a new experience for a kid, family or coach, and I try to make it a big deal," Helmrichs said. "We have been to state many times but for that one person, it's the first time and it should be special."
That focus is part of the reason he was named the state's Class A Activities Director of the Year. He was selected as the Section 6A AD of the year by his peers, based on votes from the nearly 40 ADs in the section. From there, a committee of members from the Minnesota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association deemed the top director in the state in a pool of fellow section winners.
"It has made me reflect a little bit," Helmrichs said. "You remember back when you were a young guy watching others get those awards and you think, 'Who would do this for 30 years?' But now I'm one of those guys. I don't think it changes how I do things, but maybe it changes the way I look at things now."
Helmrichs said the future is uncertain at the moment, but retirement is not something he has considered, especially since he works with great coaches and a supportive administration, school board and public.
"I like what I do and I think I'm fortunate to have that and work with some really good coaches ... Everywhere I have been, I have worked with an administration that gets it. I have never had to sell activities to a superintendent or principal. I never had to convince anyone that what we are doing is valuable," he said.