Longtime member of Summit schools, Travis Avery, assumes role as Summit High athletics director

A resident of Summit County for 18 years, Travis Avery is Summit High School's new athletic director. He brings with him experience as the district's emergency response coordinator and as the middle school's AD of eight years. Avery has also coached Summit High soccer and has officiated many a Western Slope basketball game.
Hugh Carey/Summit Daily News Archives

Just over 48 hours into the 2018-19 school year, new Summit High School athletics and activities director Travis Avery walks through Summit High School’s gymnasium to the site of the district’s latest sporting developments.

Adjacent to the gymnasium, the athletics add-ons include an indoor turf practice field and a brand new weight room.

Avery said the facilities should both be open within the month. In order to meet that goal, a team of a half-dozen construction workers rolled thick white boundary lines onto the fresh layer of turf.

“How do we define success?” Avery said of Summit High sports. “Programs as competitive as possible. And within that I’d include making sure our student athletes can benefit as much as possible. That might be different depending on where a program is at, but I want the program to be growing — in year one competitive and defining success as X, Y and Z and in five years to grow that definition.”

Along the way to the new indoor field, Avery passes by the Tiger program’s old logo, painted on the wall high above the bleachers. The program’s new logo anchors a shiny brand-new hardwood basketball court. The new court, the new turf field, the new weight room and other improvements are all part of $29.2 million the high school received thanks to a a 2016 bond initiative approved by district voters.

The new logo, a sleek and stout block “S” sporting the school’s colors, may as well signify the turnover in athletics leadership at the school from last year’s one-year athletic and activities director, Matt Erholtz, to Avery. But the 45-year-old Avery is far from a newcomer to Summit County. He hopes his nearly two decades of experience living here and partaking in the Summit sports scene will benefit the program moving forward, as it combines an admiration for the past and an ambition for the future.

After a childhood playing elite-level soccer while bouncing around with his military family from one home to the next, Summit County has been an 18-year home for the native-Texan. Before taking the new job, Avery worked as the district’s emergency response coordinator. The former Division-I soccer player also coached within the high school’s soccer program for many years and worked as a referee for Western Slope League basketball games.

The time spent in the county, the experience working within the district — eight years as an athletic director at the middle school — and the hours spent coaching and refereeing High Country sports certainly suggest Avery enters the position with a well-rounded resume.

Nearing two decades in Summit County, Avery is now tasked with leading the school’s athletics and activities program into a future forecasted to include more money, more students, and potentially more teams.

“But we want to make sure we are incorporating the values of Summit County as we grow,” Avery said.

With the evolving nature of the Summit County community, one full of transient visitors and part-time seasonal residents, the high school’s athletics program is also experiencing the variables of changing times. Despite the developments, Avery sees value in the past characteristics that comprised the culture of Summit County athletes.

Historically, Avery feels Summit High’s sports have been led by multi-sport athletes who reflected the know-your-neighbor small-town feel of the local ski community. With the change in demographics though, there’s been an increase at Summit in students specializing in one sport, often with independent clubs. More student-athletes have also complicated the youth and feeder athletics programs to the high school to some degree.

To Avery, it’s not that sport specialization or more students is a bad thing. Not at all. Rather, it’s just different, and it means he and his athletics staff have to work harder to tailor individualized athletics options — whether that be one sport or three sports — for singular Summit Tiger letterwinners.

“How we navigate that becomes evolved and more challenging,” he said.

“And it could not just be sports,” Avery added. “We could have a kid doing cross-country running who’s also a theater buff, which is it’s own big time commitment. How we balance that out — the focus isn’t just the sporting or the fine arts endeavor as much as having that well-rounded participant who moves onto good things later in life.”

At the core of making the most of the situation for each Tiger athlete, Avery feels, is communication and camaraderie. Avery sees the value in connecting, whether those lessons were learned playing pick-up soccer with local kids while his family was stationed in Germany three decades ago, or as recent as his time refereeing across the Western Slope.

“It always comes back to communication,” he said. “It’s huge in the education industry as a whole and huge in my position, dealing with so many different populations.”

Looking ahead, as a former coach himself, Avery’s priorities include making sure there’s a long-term plan in place for coaches, as he sees consistency in leadership as a must for a strong sports scene. Re-addressing the school’s outdoor stadium facility, namely the quality of its track, is also on his mind. As for adding to the school’s athletics programs, he didn’t single out specific new teams, though he did say he’s thought about the expansion of existing programs and adding more levels to certain sports.

Whatever’s on the horizon for his athletics program, though, Avery knows it always comes back to one thing: Summit’s student-athletes.

“What it comes down to, a lot of times, is a group of kids coming together,” he said, “having put in the work on their own a lot of times, so coming into the season, they’re focused and dedicated to meeting the goal.”

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