Greg Sackos: Southwest High's AD looks to put school on the map


Sports Editor

(Editor's note: Today is the first installment in a series of stories highlighting each of the Imperial Valley's high school athletic directors. Each Sunday a different AD will grace the front page of our sports section in an effort to let the community in on the people behind this Valley's successful high school sports programs.)

Tradition doesn't spring forth fully formed; it's something that has to be nurtured, worked at. Greg Sackos knows as much.

More than 55 years ago, the historic Bell Game between Central Union and Brawley Union high schools likely wasn't the classic rivalry it is today. History and tradition has made it so.

As athletic director of Southwest High School in El Centro, the Imperial Valley's youngest high school, Sackos is one of many tasked with bringing that sense of sports lore to the 5-year-old campus.


In his second year at Southwest, Sackos already has planted the roots from which such traditions grow.

"Look at football. We tried to create a city rivalry," he said. "No other city in the Valley has the city rivalry we have with Central."

He added both El Centro high schools' football and golf teams play for city trophies.

Better yet, nothing speeds up tradition like a winning sports program. This year Southwest saw its varsity softball team advance to the CIF San Diego Section Division III championship game and its girls track team win the school a CIF Division II championship.

"Even though we had some success, I think we can have more," he said, adding the school's girls' teams are especially promising as most are rife with underclassman.

Sackos said it's important to establish the school among its peers. However, he said, establishing Southwest and Valley schools as a whole in the CIF San Diego Section is equally important.

"As a league (Imperial Valley League), I think we wanted to show our worth, and I think we've done that," he said.

And Southwest?

"We hosted division wrestling last year. Now we're pushing hard to get the Masters meet down here," Sackos said, referring to the CIF San Diego Section state meet qualifier. "That would be huge for the Valley.

"We understand that we have to establish ourselves and then the rest will come."

Sackos may be relatively new to the Imperial Valley but he's long been established on the desert sports scene.

For 14 years, the 40-year-old Sackos taught math, physical education and eventually became AD at Palo Verde High School in Blythe.

He said he came to Blythe after college because the school afforded the opportunity to instantly be involved in athletics. During his first year he was named head coach of the varsity baseball team and an assistant on the football and basketball squads.

"When I came into teaching, I was involved in two, three sports a year," he said. "I love sports and I love what sports can do for kids as far as promoting team work and self-discipline and commitment."

Sackos credits his father with instilling in him the love of school and sports.

Raised in Worland, Wyo., Sackos and his brothers were told one thing by their dad: "Take school seriously and be involved in school programs."

For Sackos, that was sports. He was a varsity football, basketball and track athlete. He spent the summer playing in an American Legion baseball league.

Once he got to college — University of Wyoming in Laramie and later Southern Utah University in Cedar City — he played baseball. He was so into sports, once he outlasted his eligibility as a player he became a student trainer for SUU.

Now the man who participated in school sports for much of his life heads a program of his own — one on the rise by most accounts.

"I feel like I'm surrounded by people who are enthusiastic, concerned and committed with the importance of academics and athletics," he said, adding Southwest Principal Joe Evangelist, a longtime AD himself, has been of great assistance and has taught Sackos much.

"Here at Southwest we push academics and we push our academic programs. In the same breath, we want to push our sports teams," he said. "I think we're a well-rounded school."

While Sackos understands society may put too much emphasis on sports achievement, he said the local emphasis on high school sports has much more meaning.

"I know the value of sports. … Some call it the biggest classroom on campus. I thinks that's true. The challenge is getting the kids to buy into that, to keep them committed," Sackos said.

"We care about our kids."

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