The end of the school year will mark the 14th – and final – year as Carthage athletics director for Andy Youngworth.

The end of the school year will mark the 14th – and final – year as Carthage athletics director for Andy Youngworth.

Youngworth, who has also spent 28 years in Carthage as a coach, will retire at the end of June.

“To be honest, the job has outgrown me,” Youngworth said last week. “We need a full-time athletic director and at this point in my career that’s not something I was interested in. It just seemed like the right time to step aside in that capacity.”

Youngworth also teaches and serves as head cross country and track and field coach.

During his tenure as athletics director, Carthage has seen monumental changes in the realm of athletics. The district joined the Central Ozarks Conference in 2008, opened a brand new gymnasium inside the new high school in 2009 and unveiled David Haffner Stadium last fall, which hosts football, soccer and track and field.

The move to the COC in 2008 ended a 26-year affiliation with the Southwest Conference, which formed in 1982 with six members: Carthage, Webb City, Neosho, McDonald County, Nevada and Joplin Memorial. That conference came about after a split among the Big 13 schools, with the smaller schools forming the Big 8.

“We went from a five team conference to an eight team conference and now we’re a 10-team league and we don’t worry about having to play football games in St. Louis or Kansas City or against a first-year school in Oklahoma City who came here,” Youngworth said. “The level of competition in all sports is great and it’s made us better as a school. We don’t have great rivalries with the east side yet, there’s no real rivalry between us and Willard or Branson, but now with Joplin, Carl Junction, Webb City and Neosho, we’ve got four schools within 25 or 30 miles of us. The first home game against Joplin next year I think is going to be a great atmosphere.”

Joplin, which is departing the Ozark Conference, will join the COC this fall.

Youngworth said Carthage couldn’t have transitioned to the COC without the new high school and its facilities.

“The old guard of the COC was fairly skeptical of us because of facilities and things like that,” he said. “It was one of those deals where it was just the right time. I’m not sure we would have been able to pull it off if we were at the old high school.”

The new facilities, including an auxiliary gym at the high school, have allowed Carthage to host postseason events like district wrestling and district and sectional basketball. Youngworth said, after seeing all the other large school gymnasiums in southwest Missouri, he still thinks Carthage’s is the best.

“We really did a great job putting together a facility that holds over 2,000 but gets you close to the action,” he said.
The new stadium, with an eight-lane track, will host Class 3 and 4 sectional track this May.

“The morning after the Ozark football game (the first at Haffner Stadium), I drove by K.E. Baker Stadium pretty early and I thought, ‘How did we put 4,000 people in that place when we played Webb City or had a big game or event?’ That was just a special, unique environment. Obviously our fans and spectators deserved to have 21st century facilities so you don’t trade that out for nostalgia. It’s a much better situation we’re in now than we were before.”

Youngworth said the lack of turnover among high school coaches has been a positive. Out of 17 sports, there have been just five coaching changes dating back several years. The school has had just two track coaches since 1982 and three cross country coaches since the mid-70’s.

“The relationships I’ve been able to foster with our coaches is awesome,” he said. “The athletic directors I’ve worked with over the 14 years, like Jeff Staley at Willard, David Large at Branson, John Roderique and some of the ones who are no longer ADs in our area that I still see. Those people are going through the same thing you’re going through. We don’t have any problem at Carthage that’s not somewhere else. We all face the same dilemmas.”

He also noted the school has tried to maintain a balance between academics and athletics, and said almost all of the programs earn academic recognition by MSHSAA every season.

Youngworth came to Carthage in 1990 as an assistant boys track coach and an assistant football coach. In 1994, when Patty Vavra left to become the first women’s coach at Missouri Southern, Youngworth took over as head girls track coach and also became the head cross country coach. A year later he became head boys track coach, as well.

Youngworth’s post-retirement plans remain up in the air.

“It’s hard to tell, there are a lot of options I think out there,” he said. “I don’t think anything is going to be finalized until the end of the spring or even in the summer. I’m hoping to still continue to be involved in coaching and teaching in a part time way somewhere, whether in Carthage or another school system.”