Pleasant Ridge High School has found its new district athletic director as the school year is set to begin Wednesday.

Dabecka Kirk has been hired to oversee the district’s athletic programs and activities after former AD, Michael Koontz, took the same position at Leavenworth High School.

Kirk grew up in Odessa, Missouri, before attending Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, to play softball. 

Her career in education began at Windsor High School where she taught physical education and coached softball. After two years at Windsor, Kirk took a break from teaching to work at a behavioral health hospital in Windsor. Soon after, she became the softball coach at La Monte and spent four seasons as a non-faculty coach. An opening for a physical education teacher at La Monte prompted her return to education where she spent another six years and also became the AD. 

Kirk said she was not familiar with the school district or the area before interviewing for the job. Instead, she was contacted by her former colleague and new principal at Pleasant Ridge, Lacy Warren, who was her principal at La Monte. 

“I was pretty comfortable at La Monte,” she said, “but Lacy gave me a call to tell me she had the position open and asked if I wanted to move to Kansas. So, here I am.”

Having spent most of her life in Missouri, Kirk said she has spent time adjusting to the Leavenworth County area as well as Kansas as a whole. 

During her interview, there was a consensus on the desire to build a culture around weightlifting and conditioning. The agreement on the points of focus was part of what led Kirk to go ahead and make the move. 

“We talked a lot about wanting to stress the importance of weightlifting as well as building on the culture around it,” Kirk said. “Those are kind of my niche, strength and conditioning and weight programs.”

Kirk said part of ensuring these goals are met is making sure everyone is buying in.

“We want to get everyone, all coaches and athletes, excited and on board for taking care of their bodies,” she said. “So they can be the best athletes they can be.”

A place where Kirk has identified the need for improvement is in maximizing participation in offseason and summer workouts. She said she is hoping the idea of changing the perceptions around the programs will encourage athletes to be more involved in them.

“From talking to a few coaches, it sounds like they’re struggling in some ways to get their kids to buy into the conditioning programs,” she said. “You always have kids who are motivated to do the workouts but we have to get everyone bought in.”

With the school year and the fall athletic season kicking off, Kirk said she is looking forward to instilling a winning tradition at Pleasant Ridge with hopes that athletes will take pride in it and carry it into their workouts, conditioning and offseason.