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Munich High grad Fetsch getting ready to oversee all prep sports in North Dakota

Matthew Fetsch is the new Executive Secretary for the North Dakota High School Activities Association.. Fetsch was on hand for the ND Girls Soccer championship in Grand Forks recently. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Back in the late 1990s, when Munich-Starkweather was fielding very competitive boys basketball teams, Matt Fetsch had a short-lived career on the court.

Fetsch was on the Munich-Starkweather junior varsity team as a freshman. As a sophomore, he was a seldom-used varsity player. He chose not to play basketball in his junior and senior seasons.

“I won’t go down as one of the memorable basketball players to come through Munich,” Fetsch says.

What Fetsch is about to become is the person in charge of basketball in the entire state of North Dakota — as well as all other extracurricular activities. On July 1, Fetsch succeeds the retiring Sherm Sylling as executive secretary of the North Dakota High School Activities Association.

At 33, Fetsch said, he will be the youngest head of a state high school extracurriculars  association in the country. “But age is just a number,” he said.

How daunting a task will it be to be in charge of all prep athletics in the state, to oversee state tournaments and deal with issues such as player eligibilities and what seems to be the on-going questions surrounding re-classifications?

“It depends on the day,” said Fetsch, who currently is an assistant to the executive secretary at the NDHSAA. “Every day is different.

“When you work with great people like (athletic directors) Mark Rerick in Grand Forks, Todd Olson in Fargo, Jim Haussler in Bismarck, those kinds of people make it easier. But things do come up that can be difficult.”

If it’s not broke …

Don’t look for sweeping changes as the transition is made from Sylling to Fetsch.

“It’s not like the system is broken,” Fetsch said. “I want to keep it going in the right direction.

“So many things have already happened in the last few years — TV contracts, webcasts for state tournaments, increasing exposure, seeding in some state tournaments. Those are things I believed in.”

Fetsch said the NDHSAA also has been more active in technology, trying to get scores and updated tournament pairings statewide on-line on the NDHSAA website as soon as possible.

Fetsch said he would like to drop district tournaments statewide in Class B boys basketball, girls basketball and volleyball. Some regions are already in the process of the conversion to the so-called “super regional’’ as the number of Class B schools decrease due to school closures, consolidations and co-ops.

“The super regional puts more emphasis on seeding and regular-season games,” Fetsch said. “I like that. And now, we have some districts with only five teams, with four advancing (to region tournaments).

“And classifications always seem to be a central issue. I don’t know where I personally stand on that. I don’t know if (three-class systems) will happen in basketball and volleyball. With fewer teams, why do you need more classifications?”

As far as long-range projects and goals, Fetsch said he doesn’t go into his new position with anything specific in mind.

“But I know things can happen so fast,” he said. “You never know what might come up.”

Always around athletics

While Fetsch’s basketball career didn’t go far, the 1999 Munich High School graduate grew up active in several sports.

He played a lot of hockey as a youth growing up in Calvin, N.D. After his family moved to Munich, he was a starter on three Munich-Starkweather teams that played in Class B state baseball tournaments. He was a starting quarterback on the Langdon-Munich football team.

From Munich, it was on to Mayville State, where he was a three-year starting infielder on the Comets’ baseball team. Fetsch played second base for the MSU team that played in the 2002 NAIA national tournament.

Sports always seemed to be somewhere in his future.

“I’ve always been around sports,” Fetsch said. “In college, I thought about going into coaching. But it was more (thinking) about going into athletic administration of some sort.”

After stops at Northwood High School (2004-06) as a teacher and Grafton High School (2006-10) as athletic director, Fetsch took the position of assistant to the executive secretary at the NDHSAA in 2010.

That has proven to be a springboard.

“I thought the (executive secretary) position would be available in a few years when I came here,” Fetsch said. “If it had opened up two years ago, I may not have applied for it. I don’t know if I would have felt that I was ready.

“There’s been a learning curve. You’re assigned to a sport and you’re the one running things, working with officials and tournament workers. I’d never been to a high school soccer match before I came here. The state wrestling tournament was something I was fairly new to. But things went smoothly because I was working with good people.”

Now his career course is being steered in a new direction, to executive secretary of the NDHSAA.

“In college, I never knew this position existed,” he said with a laugh.