When Todd Sommerfeldt from the Tribune called me a little over a week ago to let me know that I was selected as Tribune coach of the year, I broke down into tears. I was incredibly humbled to be chosen and was caught completely off guard. Our kids and our team had a great year, but Caledonia had just won their millionth game in a row and it felt like they have more state championships than I have wins. G-E-T had a great run and Bangor has only lost one game in the past two years. Simply put, there are a lot of great coaches in this area who Todd could have chosen.
As honored as I am for Todd and the Tribune to have chosen me this year, I don't coach for the awards. Don't get me wrong, I'll be sending a copy of the newspaper home to my parents to show my last living grandparent. I'm very proud of the selection, but I coach for much bigger reasons.
I coach because football got me through high school. It gave me a place to belong. I was a 5'7 120lb kid going into high school with no handles, no jump shot, and a throwing arm that usually landed a baseball somewhere out of play near a fence. Luckily I found football. I latched onto my high school coaches (Bill Turnquist, Dexter McNabb, Jeff Lutz, Jared Marsh) and listened to everything they said. I lived in the weight room for four years. My coaches believed in me, taught me how to work hard, taught me what it meant to be dedicated, and they never let me give up, even when times were hard. My coaches gave me the confidence that nothing else in life had up to that point.
Here’s the catch: I wasn’t any good at high school football. I am a self proclaimed scout team All American. I didn’t have a lick of talent and I never made an impactful play in a meaningful game. My coaches though, didn’t coach me any different though because of that. They found ways for me to contribute. I played on every special team, I played on the defensive line as a 170lb Jr/Sr, and for some reason they even tried me a quarterback for four games. They believed in me, and because of that, I believed in myself.
With what my coaches did for me in high school, I knew that I had to pass that on. I coach because young men need to learn how to work hard as part of a team. They need to learn that failing does not make them a failure, and that failing is part of growing. They need to be taught how to pick themselves up of the mat after lift knocks them down. They need to be taught leadership, because we can never have enough great leaders in our world. They also need to see what it means to be a husband and a father modeled by our staff both in words and actions-- and while I am not claiming we are perfect at teaching any of these, I hope that our players take have learned enough to make them a better person as they leave our program than they were when we got them as freshman.
I’ve coached football for the past 13 autumns. The excitement never gets old, the nervousness on Fridays never gets less intense, and the fire to see our athletes succeed has never burned stronger inside me. I coach because I love seeing the joy on the faces of high school kids when they are successful. I love watching our players celebrate with their friends, their family, and the community after we win. I coach because the game of football gave me a chance to be a part of something much bigger than myself and I owe it to my former coaches to pass on what they gave to me, to the next generation of young men.
This past season was a memorable one, and I have a lot of people to thank. First of all I have to thank Jana for supporting me, through the wins and the losses, the highs and the lows. I thank my parents, for making the 3+ hour drive from the east side of the state multiple times this year, a few of them without me knowing they were coming. My dad would also wake up early anytime after a big win and print off the newspaper article online, drive to my 91 year old grandpa’s house and slip the print off into his sports section while it was still in his paperbox so my grandpa would find our article when he opened it up. Thank you to my assistant coaches who gave countless hours to our success but never get their names in the newspaper for the work they do. Thank you to the entire Onalaska community for making this season special for our athletes. It meant a lot to see the community come out to watch us play. I thank the parents of our athletes for the time that they sacrifice in so many different ways. Between team dinners, giving rides to weight lifting, weekend commitments, it’s busy and can be difficult. Know that your sacrifice does not go unnoticed.
Pound the Rock!