Ron Dolphin just may be the hardest-working man in Moab. His day typically starts around 6 a.m. — right around the time he arrives at his Grand County High School office. Aside from teaching two periods of government classes, he is responsible for organizing all Red Devil activities and athletic events.
For all his hard work, Dolphin was recognized by the Utah High School Activities Association last week as the 2017 Athletic Director of the Year — a distinction he previously won from the Utah Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Dolphin also sits as state chair coordinator for three introductory classes meant for new athletic directors in Utah and he teaches two of the required classes.
Dolphin’s office, cluttered with memos, paperwork and all the other hallmarks of an extremely busy individual is where the magic of Red Devil athletics happens. His walls are lined with awards and accolades, so much so that he might have to add an extra wing to his office, but Dolphin seems more interested in the students than any of those awards.
“I grew up with the adage ‘You’ll get all the sleep you need when you’re dead,’” laughed Dolphin. “Enjoy what you’ve got and it’ll all work out.”
He maintains that despite his chaotic schedule, he still finds time to make time for people. “These are the things that make it all worth it,” he said, while showing off a freshly framed and signed Lady Devils team photo — a gift to him for his dedication to Grand County athletics.
“It’s not an easy job,” Dolphin said. “I’ve been beat up a bit. I got beat up a little bit over the girls’ game last night because officials came from Blanding, and we played Blanding, but I have to do my best, and sometimes my best isn’t good enough for somebody that’s, you know, in attendance.”
This was in reference to his controversial decision to use San Juan referees for the Lady Devils’ game against — you guessed it — San Juan. The decision was made, however, after exhausting all other options as every other officiating crew was tied up throughout the area. San Juan became the only option.
Dolphin added that he often deals with a verbal jab or two from angry parents who may not agree with some aspect of how he’s doing his job, but it’s all in a days work.
Dolphin is also a GCHS alumnus, graduating in 1988. He said life in Moab is very different now as compared to living here in the 1970s and 1980s.
“When I grew up in Moab, we were a ranching and mining community. Everybody was working in the Atlas Mines or the mill tailings" he said, adding that he believes the fact that households typically only needed one source of income led to more freedom for families and higher turnout for athletics.
“We had to transition when the uranium boom fell out … we put all that egg into tourism," Dolphin said.
Dolphin said he believes that many kids in Moab are seeing more opportunity in the workplace than they are in the school’s athletic programs, which he attributes to the lower turnouts for many of the Red Devils’ sports teams. Dolphin also attributes lower turnouts to the cost of living in Moab, which causes many households to seek multiple means of income.
“We’ve got this intergenerational poverty that’s cyclic,” he said. “We addressed that with the state when trying to keep us as a 2A school instead of a 3A school ... our intergenerational poverty. That didn’t work for the state.”
Dolphin also recalls a point at which the school board was considering dropping athletics altogether due to lop-sided cost-to-turnout ratio. Dolphin argued that the importance of school sports programs is indispensable, saying, “That big group of kids that were in the gym Friday night for that Emery game, you don’t have sports, now you’re talking upwards of 200 youth that have nothing to do out in the community causing mayhem and discontent.” He notes that statistically, kids from areas with no extra-curricular programs in place tend to fall into bad situations.