- Associated Press - Sunday, February 14, 2016

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) - Tobias Lunsford, though too humble to voice it, obviously is sought out and valued for his highly developed sense of fair play, both in his career as a peace officer and as a coach.

Much of what Lunsford does involves a continual evaluation of fair play. He is a special agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, assigned to Catfish Bend Casino, “To protect the integrity of gaming, both for the players and the state,” Lunsford told The Hawk Eye (https://bit.ly/1SKlSNx ).

“We maintain the balance between both sides,” he said.

He regularly gives talks in the community about his role in the enforcement of gaming rules and fair play, speaking to schools and civic organizations.

As a coach and officiator - for basketball, softball, football and volleyball? for boys, girls and college-age youths - he also enforces the rules of fair play.

But coaching and being with youth at play gives Lunsford a softer and broader community platform. That’s when he can impart a sense of respect, for self, family, fellow players and the community, without which there would be no fair play.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed coaching. I’ve done it my entire adult life, since I graduated college. I’ve coached 21-year-olds, all the way down to 5-year-olds.

“They need to learn life lessons along the way, and I think they can learn that through sports - respect for other players and authority in general.

“I always tell them to appreciate what they have, to appreciate their parents. I tell them they should thank them each and every time they take them to an event and practice. Parents make a big sacrifice to have them participate in sports,” Lunsford said.

Traveling teams, put together privately, give youth greater opportunities to participate beyond school-affiliated teams’ competitions, Lunsford said. “We didn’t have traveling softball or volleyball when I was growing up,” he said.

“Parents do have to pay for these traveling sports teams, but they are told up front,” he said.

For Lunsford, winning is not the primary goal. “I tell them people don’t remember if you win or lose. They remember how you play - did you have a good attitude, did you demonstrate good sportsmanship,” he said.

“Kids and parents have a different perspective today on sports. If it doesn’t work in their favor, they may choose to go elsewhere instead of instilling the value that you finish what you start,” Lunsford said.

“I talk about attitude and leadership at every practice. At an early age you can see who the leaders are and who the followers are,” Lunsford said. “I tell them they have an opportunity to be a leader, but the road is never going to be easy, you have to work for that.”

Almost every night of the week and weekends Lunsford is either coaching or officiating. “I couldn’t do it without my wife. It’s definitely a family affair,” he said.

His wife, Suzanne Lunsford, takes care of all the scheduling, communication and other organizational duties, he said.

They have two daughters, Mariah, 24, was Miss Iowa in 2012, her talents honed during years of volleyball, track and dance lessons. Adryonna, 12, also takes dance and is involved in volleyball and softball.

“We travel with our girls everywhere. We have literally never missed one their dances or sporting events,” Lunsford said.

Jim Cary, Des Moines County supervisor, is his father-in-law and “has been very active and supportive in our lives,” he said.

“He’s fair about everything,” Cary said. “He’s fair in refereeing. He doesn’t leave kids on the bench but lets them all play. He’s just a square shooter. I couldn’t ask for anybody better to take care of my daughter and grandkids. He’s amazing.”

The family goes to the First United Methodist Church, Lunsford said. “We were married there, our kids were baptized there.”

Lunsford, born in Oklahoma, came to the area to attend Iowa Wesleyan College on a basketball scholarship, graduating with a double major in criminal justice and psychology in 1996. In 1998, when Joel Behne was Des Moines County Sheriff, Lunsford was hired as a deputy sheriff, serving until 2001. In 2001, he became an Iowa state trooper, serving in Lee County for four and a half years. Since 2005, he has been a special agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Asked if the level of crime has changed in Burlington, Lunsford said, “I think Burlington has changed with the way the world has changed,” citing social media as a catalyst.

“We have to change with the times,” he said. “We have to work hard to stay up with it. I think the people of Burlington work hard to keep us safe. I think it’s a great place to raise your kids, and I know not everyone can say that.”


Information from: The Hawk Eye, https://www.thehawkeye.com

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