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New Elma AD ready to put on school colors

Paul Gaskins may not have any Elma High School apparel yet, but you can be sure by the end of the year his closet will be packed with royal blue.

The 49-year-old Gaskins has been hired as the athletic director at Elma. Gaskins took over the reigns from Rick Rakevich, who stepped down at the end of the 2013-14 school year, and he is eager to begin his career as an Eagle.

“This was the ideal job for me,” Gaskins said. “I wanted to be at Elma High School. Being an athletic director, you get to see kids do things they are really passionate about doing and I love to see them be successful. This way, I get to see the whole realm of sports and the kids doing things they love to do.”

Gaskins had been the athletic director at Hillcrest High School in Midvale, Utah since 2009, but he was looking to relocate to Western Washington to start a life with his soon-to-be wife, Laura Valentine. When the AD position came open at Elma, it was almost a dream come true for Gaskins to be able to find a job so close to where Valentine, an EHS grad, calls home.

Gaskins grew up in Farmington, New Mexico, playing baseball and football at Farmington High School, but after his days on the court and field for the Scorpions he said he took “The 17-year plan” to find his way into coaching. He has spent 26 years coaching both baseball and football, but went back to school at the age of 32 and earned his bachelors degree and made his way onto the sidelines at Farmington High School as a baseball and football coach and teaching social studies as well. The desire to be a head coach drove Gaskins to Hillcrest in 2007 to become the head baseball coach and then, in 2009, he took over the position of athletic director. The athletic director position at Elma comes with a no coaching clause so Gaskins will be away from the bench, but he said he is looking forward to dedicating more time to his new position.

“I want to get to know the community and the high school and the programs,” Gaskins said. “I want to do a good job, so I want to really focus on being the AD. I think I can add something to the athletic programs. Being a coach, I know what coaches like so I try to bring that and see if I can help coaches be more successful. I don’t really look at it as anybody’s boss, just what can I do to make your job easier? How can I help you be the best you can be out there?”

While he said he does see a few things he would like to tweak or improve at Elma, Gaskins said the best advice he received before taking the position of athletic director was to simply listen and try and take in as much information as possible.

He may have more green and black Hillcrest Huskies apparell in his closet, but Gaskins is ready to make the programs the best he can at Elma.

“I’m taking over from predecessors who have done a great job in the athletic department,” Gaskins said. “I’m not here to reinvent the wheel. If it is not really broke, let’s not fix it. I think you can tweak and there is always improvement you can make in your own craft. Find out what works and what doesn’t work and what people like and what they don’t like. I think the worst thing you can do is to just come in and start scrapping programs, ideas and traditions. I want to learn what the traditions are here and how can we add to those and keep those going and make them better.”

Along with all of the programs that Gaskins will take over the operation of, he also inherits a football and soccer field that is without grandstands. The Davis Field grandstands, which were contstructed in 1949, were demolished on June 19 leaving fans without a place to sit at football and soccer games during the upcoming seasons.

“We don’t have a distinct plan yet on what we are going to do,” Gaskins said. “Obviously, we are going to try to make it as comfortable as possible for the fans as we can. We have to make that situation the best we can for the community members to come out and watch the football games and our football team deserves that. We are going to come up with the best solution possible.”

No matter what happens with Davis Field, Gaskins is excited to be a part of Elma High School and ready to begin wearing blue and white.

“I’m really looking forward to being here and doing whatever we can do to make it better,” Gaskins said.