By KEVIN THOMPSON
LAKIN — When he gives back to his alma mater, Bret Hendrix really gives back.
The 1980 Lakin High School graduate is now the voice of the Broncs, covering everything from football to baseball as a broadcaster on the Internet at www.lakinsports.com, which he created in 2007.
Call it a side job for a sports junkie, but it's one that the father of two is not about to relinquish any time soon.
Hendrix pursued his interest in broadcasting right out of high school, obtaining his associates degree in communication from Dodge City Community College. That was before the Internet.
But he didn't go any further at that time. Instead, he is now an operations tech with Colorado Interstate Gas Company.
But while his degree and his career diverged, he never lost his passion for high school sports or Lakin.
While he was raising a family with his wife Sandy, Hendrix was volunteer coaching for the Lakin Recreation Commission or working with his own two sons developing their athletic interests.
Then in 2005, his dream gig ("don't call it a job," he says) literally fell into his lap.
Local broadcaster JD Hamm was looking for a broadcast partner to do Lakin football games. Lakin resident Ralph Goodnight told Hamm he'd ask around to see if anyone would be interested. He had to look no further than Hendrix, who jumped at the chance. Then after two years, he struck out on his own.
"JD told me 'You need to be doing this. You're the Lakin guy,'" Hendrix said.
Hendrix said he was hesitant at first because it was new to him, but Hamm helped him set up the website initially and guided Hendrix along the way.
"When I was doing games with JD, stats were hard to come by. Information about teams we were going to play or even the Lakin teams were hard to come by. So I thought starting the site was not only helping me but other broadcasters were able to go to the site before they would come call a game," Hendrix said.
Also, Lakin athletes and citizens have an easily accessible place to go to get updated information.
"And I'm going to be at the games anyway," he added. "What a great way to take the game to others who can't make it."
Hendrix streams live audio via his website, during games encouraging listeners to email him and tell from where they are listening. During a game against Southwestern Heights, a Mustang fan sent an email telling Hendrix he was listening from an army camp in Afghanistan.
"That just gave me chills," he explained. "We have somebody in a war zone who was listening. It was a thrill for me."
Those broadcasts are archived almost immediately, so anyone can go back to listen at any time.
Producing, broadcasting, archiving and updating all on a laptop keep him busy enough, but Hendrix said he he also has to be in the "real world."
Working a regular job around the broadcasting has been a challenge, he said, but his company has helped him.
"They're very supportive of what I do," he said. He uses some vacation time to take off work early for away games. Sometimes it's a struggle to juggle, but in four years, he said he's only missed a handful of games, all the way from football through basketball and wrestling to baseball.
The website isn't just broadcasts, however. Included on it are pages for all LHS sports, including team photos, game photos, rosters, updated stats, results and schedules.
"Some sports aren't broadcast-types of sports, like cross country, but I do support those, as well," he explained. "It's a good way to give as much coverage as possible to all, not just the marquis sports."
Local businesses provide sponsorships to support the site, and he's always looking for more. He puts business logos on the site, he makes ads to run during broadcasts and he mentions them during the games.
"It's for the kids," Hendrix said. "I don't pay myself. This money goes to support what I do, and what I do is support Lakin High School."
Hendrix does all his work via an HP laptop, a microphone and a wireless Internet card.
He figures he averages calling about 75 events a year, although one season he hit 84.
Area schools have helped make the broadcasts happen, he said, especially when he contacts them well ahead of time. But sometimes a school's wireless service doesn't work. In cases like that, Hendrix said he will "broadcast" any way and get it archived as soon as possible so people can listen later.
Being from Lakin, Hendrix said he has to catch himself not being a "homer" guy on air, but it's been a tough lesson.
"I'm primarily doing this for Lakin athletes, but I have to remember the real reason I'm doing this is to offer the ballgame to anybody who wants to be able to listen," he said. "The greatest lesson I have had to learn is not to let my emotions take away from what's happening.
"I mean, I want Lakin to win everything, but it just doesn't happen that way," he laughed. "But I'm not only supporting the Lakin athletes but the other teams and their listeners."
He has always loved and played sports since childhood and he likes to help kids learn sports.
That love has transferred over the air. Besides being a fan, he said he is also a stats junkie, somebody who loves the numbers and the history behind each sport.
In researching local history, Hendrix has come across a couple of stories of interest. A retired Phog Allen, the legendary coach of the Kansas Jayhawks, dedicated the old high school gym in 1957.
And when Lakin faced Deerfield in basketball this season, he found out it was the first meeting between the schools (separated by just seven miles) in 50 years.
And he himself was on the same football field at the same time as retired NFL great Steve Tasker from Leoti.
Just four years into his online broadcasting, Hendrix received the 2011 Outstanding Sportscaster Award given by the Kansas Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Lakin athletic director Kim Lohman nominated him for the honor.
"The award made me proud of what I'm doing," he acknowledged. "But I don't do it for the award. When a parent tells me he couldn't get to his kid's game but listened online, that makes me feel good."
The website and the broadcasting are more than what he envisioned since he started, he said. And how long will he keep doing it?
"Until I absolutely get tired of it," he said. "I love it. When it becomes a job, it's time to get out. High school athletics should not be a job. That's the time of those kids' lives, and that should be enjoyed."