By Clay Sawatzke
You win some, you lose some. That’s the simplest way to describe sports for just about anyone at any level. But this past month at Monticello High School has proven those wins and losses don’t always show up in the columns where you’d expect to find them. Wins (and losses) can come far away from the court, field or ice. And in this past month, that’s what has happened in a couple of Monticello athletic programs. The Magic made a coaching hire that I expect to pay off, but shortly thereafter lost one of their best and brightest when Coach Tim Hanson decided to resign from coaching.
When the Magic decided to hire Jason Schmidt to be the next leader of the boys basketball program it generated a fair bit of surprise around town. After all, Schmidt has just one year of high school coaching experience, coming last year at the tenth grade level.
I wasn’t immune to the surprise. I’ve had the opportunity to interact with Schmidt a fair amount over the past year, normally through short discussions before football games or during basketball games. I’ve always enjoyed those chats. And by all accounts, he is a fantastic guy. But, I wasn’t sure that all added up to head coaching material.
However, during our interview for last week’s article (Back to the future) I_started to doubt that initial recation. He is personable, hard-working, he will give a lot to his kids, and rightfully will expect a lot back from them.
While my excitement about the hire rose slowly during my talk with Schmidt, it grew by leaps and bounds when I went to grab a few photographs at their team camp last Monday morning.
All that energy, excitement and passion Schmidt talked about bringing to the table? Multiply it by 10. From the moment I walked into the gym, the coach didn’t stop moving and didn’t stop teaching. He was from one hoop to the next, showing a kid how to square up on his jump shot, and then patting him on the back when he got it down. When Hayden Laimer missed a three during an up-and-down drill, Schmidt stopped practice to loudly tell everyone in the gym (and maybe the school) that that was a great shot. Schmidt explained that Laimer is a shooter, and he wants his shooters to take shots. Even when they miss.
Now. Is any of that stuff groundbreaking? No, probably not. But it’s the type of stuff that makes players want to play for you. His energy is infectious and it’s already noticeable how it’s transferred to his players. And his confidence in them will hopefully help them grow that same belief in themselves.
Maybe Schmidt isn’t a premiere x’s and o’s coach right now. But truthfully, he doesn’t have to be. He isn’t taking over a team that’s expecting to contend for a state title. He’s taking over a team that needs to play hard, surprise some teams, and find a way to play good basketball. I think Schmidt is more than capable of teaching those things.
And most importantly, he is taking over a program that needs to be rejuvenated and built back up again. And that is where I think he will really excel.
Unfortunately, just as the Magic added a good coach to their stable of them, they lost a great one. NWC_Coach Tim Hanson’s decision to resign came as sad news to Riverhawks, local puck heads and yours truly.
Hanson informed his team on Tuesday. By Wednesday night a Facebook group called Team Hanson had been created. As of now, it is home to 80 Riverhawks, Riverhawk alums, fans and community members.
The page is home to many stories. A majority of them reflect on life lessons Hanson taught them and the role he played in their lives that went beyond just being a coach. There are also stories about how he got the most out of them. And those are stories I can back up firsthand. Quite possibly the most entertaining game I’ve covered in my time at the Times was the Hawks’ section final game against Roseau in Detroit Lakes last winter. And I’ve never seen a team turn it on after an in- game speech like I_saw the Hawks when they bounced back from a sloppy first period to significantly outplay the powerhouse Rams and earn the programs first state berth.
Hanson has a way both with hockey and kids. He is able to motivate and to teach. To be a friend and to command respect. To win, and to have fun doing it.
The Hawks have a ton of talent coming back. They will continue to be good. But no matter what the record shows, there is little doubt that Hanson will be missed.