By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University
“School for Sale.”
Well, maybe there wasn’t an ad that said exactly that, but when a former school building and gymnasium came for sale in his area, one young man saw the opportunity to create a sports training facility that would serve young people across the region.
Lucas and Kate Boss are the founders and owners of Performance Sports in Reading, Kansas. Both grew up in Osage City as outstanding athletes.
Lucas played football and earned his degree at Emporia State. Kate played basketball at Johnson County Community College, on the team that won the national women’s junior college championship in 2000. She went on to finish her education degree at Kansas State University.
Lucas and Kate got married and became teachers and coaches, earning their master’s degrees at Emporia State. When their first child was school age, they chose to return to the Osage City school district where they teach, coach and farm today. They especially enjoyed their involvement with youth sports and are active with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
In 2019, a unique opportunity arose. After a series of school consolidations, the empty school building and gymnasium at nearby Reading was up for sale. The city of Reading had an option to buy but declined.
Shortly after, the Bosses committed to buy it. “It’s a God thing all the way around,” Lucas said. The building was still a beautiful and well-maintained facility. Lucas and Kate saw it as a potential training site for student athletes.
In 2019, they opened Performance Sports in what had been the Reading school gym. It began with a Hoops Academy for young basketball players who wanted to improve their skills.
When Covid hit and schools closed, Lucas and Kate moved their RV to the property and lived there temporarily. “Our kids had access to the playground and the gym,” Lucas said. Their facility would also serve for tournaments and practices.
While the gym was in use, the main school building was not. After other educational institutions chose not to use that space, Lucas and Kate decided to tear out the classrooms and use the building for storage.
“I said, `Let’s put some turf down in here so kids can work out,’” Lucas said. hat big open space has now become an ideal site for training in track and field throwing events.
In 2021, they opened the Track & Field Throwing Academy. Jacquelyne Leffler, the former collegiate track athlete whom we have previously profiled, is one of the coaches. Athletes are traveling from as far as three hours away to train at Reading. Kids can sign up for different sessions to train for the shotput, javelin or discus.
Lucas and Kate have five children: Son Landon, a high school senior; and four daughters: Lexi (tenth grade), Kaelyn (seventh), Kendyl (fifth), and Lakyn (second). They are all active in sports and help on the farm.
“We run cattle and raise a lot of hay. We put up a lot of small square bales,” Lucas said. That involves a lot of chores and labor, which helps teach responsibility and work ethic.
“Our kids are super tough and strong, and (the farmwork) is part of why they’re successful,” Lucas said.
What is the motivation to operate a sports academy? “It’s for the kids,” Lucas said. “We want to help them improve as athletes and enjoy the sports that they like doing,” he said.
The business website states: “We have dedicated our lives to our faith, our family, our farm, and to working with student-athletes throughout our teaching and coaching careers.”
Students are coming to train from as far away as Hoisington and Neodesha. That’s impressive for a business in the rural community of Reading, population 181 people. Now, that’s rural.
For more information, see www.performance-sports.net.
“School for sale.” Maybe there wasn’t an ad with that exact wording, but there was an opportunity to acquire a former school that would work well for youth athletic training. We commend Kate and Lucas Boss for making a difference with this initiative. In Reading, excellence in athletics lives on.
Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.