SHHS athletic department welcomes new, familiar faces

Benny Westcott

Sweet Home High School’s athletic department features a pair of new, if familiar faces this year, with one long recognized by anyone following local sports.

As a three-decade teaching and coaching veteran, new athletic director Dan Tow is definitely no stranger to the area. (He officially filled the position Monday, Aug. 30, replacing Nate Tyler, now one of the high school’s two assistant principals.)

He’s taught math at the school since 1990 and coached baseball for 19 years, from 1993 to 2009, as well as from 2015-16. He helmed junior varsity baseball for two years, from 1991-1992, and was an assistant coach from 2010-2014 and 2017-2021. He’s also coached basketball intermittently, for four seasons in total, first leading the freshman team from 1991-1993 (he captained a season in the late ’90s, as well), then the JV squad in 2013-2014.

As someone who’s always loved athletics, Tow was excited when Principal Ralph Brown approached him last year with the position.

“It’s a big and important job,” he said. “It’s very time-consuming. I’m excited to do it.”

A former high school athlete himself, Tow participated in cross country, track and field, basketball and baseball at Newport High School, where he graduated in 1986. He then ran track and cross country at Linfield University and says he still enjoys running to this day, along with his other hobbies, hunting and fishing.

After graduating from Linfield in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Tow obtained his master’s in math education from Oregon State University. He then found three available math-teaching jobs, and Sweet Home was his first choice.

“I was familiar with Sweet Home,” he said, noting that he competed against the Huskies as a Newport athlete. “I knew that it was a very supportive community.”

Tow recalled passing through with his family on the way to fishing and camping trips in Central Oregon.

“I remember seeing signs all around the town that were supportive of the sports teams here,” he said, adding that as a smaller-town type of person who enjoys the outdoors, he found Sweet Home a good fit.

Tow said that one of his strengths as a coach has been building relationships.

“I think like most coaches I’m a pretty competitive person, but my strength is dealing with people,” he said. “I enjoy the relationships with kids, other coaches, and even officials. I don’t think I’m as much of a technician as other coaches. My strength is more the people part, the relationship part of it, not as much the ‘x’s and ‘o’s.

“That’s the part of coaching that I’ve really enjoyed, and that’s what you hear from most coaches as they get older,” he continued. “The thing that endures in your mind is the relationships that you form.”

He spoke of sports’ importance in high school students’ lives.

“It’s really valuable for kids to be part of something that’s bigger than themselves,” he said. “They’re expected to be there, be on time, work as a unit and take instruction. They’re put in a situation where they are expected to do something and do it well.

“Sports are a microcosm of life,” he continued. “I don’t think the individual sports themselves are that important. What’s important is the responsibility and the team work you learn, to be part of a team and be able to sacrifice for the betterment of the group.”

He said he wants athletes to leave school “with skills that help them be good moms and dads, husbands and wives, and successful employees.”

Tow said he has more time for the athletic director job now that his own children have graduated.

“It would have been a hard job to do while they were here,” he said. 

Along with lending his hand to Sweet Home’s programs, Tow has helped build a very sport-centered family at home as well. His son Justin, 23, recently finished his college baseball career at Corban University. Daughter Ally, a Corban senior, plays on its volleyball team. Tow’s youngest son, Casey, is a sophomore at the Naval Academy, where he’s a decathlete.

His wife Michele attended Sweet Home schools, where she played volleyball, softball and basketball. She then played volleyball for two years at Linn-Benton Community College. Ally followed in her mother’s footsteps and also played volleyball for Linn-Benton before transferring to Corban.

As athletic director, Tow says he wants to be able to serve Sweet Home’s coaches.

“Coaching is a hard thing,” he said. “They are very busy. My hope is that I can help make their jobs easier and serve them in any way that I can. Especially during the pandemic, there has been a lot of organization needed to be done with adjusting to changes and cancellations. And there has been a lot of frustration felt by kids and coaches who just want to coach and be with their kids. So I want to be able to help to let the coaches coach as much as possible.”

Andee McCubbins

Sweet Home High School’s athletic department also welcomes a new athletic secretary, Andee McCubbins. She replaces Debbie Danielson, who worked for the school district for more than 30 years.

McCubbins was born and raised in Velva, North Dakota, where she played basketball, volleyball, track and field, and softball for Velva High School.

“I had two older brothers that were very into sports, so if you wanted to hang out with them, you had to do it,” she recalled.

After graduating, she worked at hotels, farms and pheasant ranches for five years. She met her future husband, Gabe, while he was stationed at the Minot Air Force Base in Ward County, North Dakota. Gabe was born in Sweet Home, where he lived until the third grade, when his family moved to West Linn. After he graduated from high school, his family returned to Sweet Home.

The young couple decided to move out of North Dakota and return to Gabe’s hometown in the fall of 2004.

“It was just back home, where he had lived,” McCubbins said. “He was ready to come home after he was done with his service.”

After arriving in Sweet Home, McCubbins focused on being a stay-at-home mom and doing bookkeeping for her husband’s company, McCubbins Quality Homes. In 2008, she started volunteering for Kids Food Pak, an organization currently under the leadership of Toy Royer that delivers food to Sweet Home students in need.

Volunteers established Kids Food Pak to ensure children receive healthy food on the weekends. School teachers and counselors identify the ones in most need of food assistance. McCubbins said she would help to send out three meals and two snacks to children to feed them over the weekend.

Inspired to do more for local youth, McCubbins launched Hope’s Closet in 2013 after learning that 1 of every 12 Sweet Home School District students lacked a permanent residence.

“They just had the top of the shoes, but no soles, and they didn’t have access to showers. And there wasn’t a light shone on it,” she said.

Hope’s Closet brought in donations of toiletries and clothing. Its mission is being carried on by Kristi Walker, who runs the Sweet Home School District Clothing Closet, which has given out clothing, shoes, school supplies, hygiene products and blankets from its 1728 Long Street location.

Having made a difference for local children, McCubbins decided to work for the school district full time in 2017, becoming a Title 1 teacher’s assistant at Foster Ele-mentary.

“I helped kids with reading, math and language arts, and made sure they weren’t falling behind,” she said of her role, which gave her a unique opportunity to balance work and family. The couple have three children, Emma, 17, Daniel, 12, and Colton, 9. Emma is a cheerleader, Daniel plays football, basketball and baseball, and Colton wrestles and plays football and baseball.

“Working for the school district is very family-oriented,” she said. “I have holidays and summers off with my kids.”

When the high school’s attendance secretary job opened up last year, McCubbins said she “jumped at the opportunity,” ultimately landing the position. When the athletic secretary job became available, she leapt at that as well.

“I like sports, so I thought, why not?” she said.

McCubbins has been involved in Husky sports as the high school’s assistant girls basketball coach the past two seasons, working alongside Head Coach Michelle Knight.

McCubbins describes herself as “a little bit more of a quiet coach,” but added, “On the floor, I want to teach them to be competitive and love what they’re doing, give it their all, and break down barriers that they set for themselves that they don’t need to have.”

“I really enjoy basketball, and I like to help coach kids,” she said.

As athletic secretary, McCubbins said she will strive to make kids feel welcome and be their No. 1 fan in academics and sports. She expects to do a lot of scheduling and answering phones, but “Being here for the kiddos is the biggest thing.”

McCubbins said she believes sports “teach you valuable skills, how to work with others, be a team player, and have a well being about yourself.”

They can also aid, she added, in “keeping yourself healthy so you can enjoy your life.”

“I hope to get kids plugged back into playing sports again,” she said. “I want to remind them that it’s fun to participate in things. With the pandemic, kids might be scared to dip their toes back in again.”