SANTA FE, N.M. — Gary Tripp credits his upbringing – from his single mom to his teachers and his coaches – in northern New Mexico with helping to shape the successful person he has become.
Tripp, New Mexico Activities Association executive director for eight years, was recently inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame.
A 1979 West Las Vegas graduate and 1983 New Mexico Highlands University alum, Tripp’s plaque and photo now hang in the NMAA’s Hall of Honor in Albuquerque.
But the roots of his success wind their way back home.
“The teachers and the coaches, they really taught us in Las Vegas, taught us how to achieve and succeed,” Tripp said. “They taught us how to work hard to get something. I think those values really helped.”
It didn’t hurt that his mom, raising his three other brothers and two sisters, provided the example of how to get things done.
“I had a single mom with a heck of a work ethic,” he said. “She molded us in that hard work, really. It was embedded in me, and my brothers and sisters.”
Tripp played football, basketball and baseball for the Dons before going on to play a season of football and four of baseball for the Cowboys, then graduating and landing a teaching gig at Moriarty.
In addition to teaching, Tripp served on the Pintos football, basketball and baseball coaching staffs before getting the baseball head coaching position. After five years in the dugout, he decided it was time to hang up the uniform.
With a young family, Tripp said he realized it was becoming more difficult to spend quality time at home while coaching so much, so it was in 1993 that he first got into sports administration, becoming the Moriarty athletic director.
“I did it for a couple of reasons,” he said. “I wanted to run the whole program. I wanted to work my way toward being a school principal. That was a nice step for me. And this made it possible to be home a little bit more with my family, while at the same time make a little bit more money with education.”
In 1999, after 17 years in Moriarty, Tripp headed west, taking a job as assistant principal at a Rio Rancho school, then moving into the principal’s office the next year.
“I really wanted to move over this way and it was a better opportunity for my daughter, Gayle,” he said, adding that, in eighth grade, she was an up-and-coming volleyball player who later would go on to star at the University of New Mexico. “I wanted to work my way into the principalship at some point. I was surprised that it came so soon.”
But, soon the top job at the NMAA opened up and it had Tripp’s name on it.
‘That was my dream job,” he said. “I helped (outgoing executive director Dan Salzwedel) a lot with rules clinics and the state tournaments. When it opened up, I tried to pursue it as hard as I possibly could.”
During his near-decade at the helm, Tripp said the things he’s most proud of accomplishing are expanding the state tournaments to 16 teams (although football remains at 12 for most classes) because “it gives more kids a chance to win a state tournament and to experience the playoffs.”
It was also during his tenure that the NMAA established a scholarship foundation, as well as sports-specific committees designed to address issues that parents, coaches and administrators would like the NMAA to address.
Three years ago, he left the NMAA to become a principal for Zia Pueblo Day School and just this year, he became the strategic planning and engagement officer for Rio Rancho Public Schools, “doing whatever the superintendent needs me to do within the community.”
It’s been a wild ride this far for Tripp, but certainly one of the highlights was being recognized by his peers in the NMAA.
“It’s pretty nice,” he said. “I was just overjoyed that I was recognized for 31 years in the schools. It was kind of overwhelming getting the call from (current executive director Sally Marquez) that the committee had nominated me and selected me.”
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Former NMAA executive director Gary Tripp ‘overjoyed’ by being inducted into the NMAA Hall of Fame