John's Journal
It’s A Brand New Day For Teams -- Old And New -- In Cannon Falls 8/12/2013
CANNON FALLS --- Monday, as we all know, was day one for fall sports in Minnesota, with practices taking place at every school across the state. But at Cannon Falls High School, specifically for the girls and boys soccer teams, day one was Day One! As in the first day in school history that soccer practices were held.

The Bombers’ football, cross-country, girls tennis, volleyball and cheerleading squads were out in force, working through drills that are well-known to most athletes. The story was a little different for the soccer teams, with new players, new coaches and a new place to play.

Kids in first through eighth grade have been playing soccer in Cannon Falls for a long time through a local soccer association. The school board approved the addition of varsity, junior high and middle school soccer in May.

“It’s so exciting,” said girls soccer coach and English teacher Anne Davisson. “It’s been an interesting journey. It’s been years of people saying, ‘You’ll never have soccer’ and me wondering why not.

“I’m an English teacher and I find words pretty easily, but I can’t find words to describe soccer. I’m so pumped for these kids that they get a chance to experience it.”

This is a unique situation. The school district funds only transportation and officials, with the soccer association, families and community organizations pitching in to cover the costs of uniforms and equipment. The coaches are volunteers. With practice space at a premium on the high school grounds, the soccer teams practice and play across town on a field at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

“The community is very excited about it. Out of the feedback I’ve received, 90 percent has been positive,” said athletic director Jake Winchell. “The community really came together. We’ve had donations from groups in town to pay for equipment and uniforms and the church allows us to use their field free of charge.”

Cannon Falls is a member of the Hiawatha Valley League (the Bombers play football in the new three-division Southern Football Alliance) but because the soccer program got off the ground late, the teams will not compete in the HVL this season. The girls and boys teams will play five or six games; the boys will open the season with a home game against Byron on Aug. 22 and the girls’ first game will be at Winona Cotter on Aug. 24.

“Our goal is just to be competitive with the other teams,” said boys coach Adam Rueger, who works in the Goodhue County Public Works department and teaches driver’s education. “We don’t want to get blown away. We’ll start with the kids, wherever they are, and hopefully by the end of the season they’ve moved up a step or two or three so they can feel good.”

Cannon Falls (population 4,083) is located on Highway 52 between the Twin Cities and Rochester. The high school enrollment is 366 students. Athletically speaking, the most well-known of those 366 is probably Emi Trost (pictured), who won the Class 1A 800-meter championship at the state track meet in June. She was the state runner-up at 1,600 meters at that meet, as well as placing second in the 1A state cross-country meet the last two years.

In that 1,600 and the two cross-country championships, Trost was second behind Blake’s Clare Flanagan. Both are now seniors, but Blake has moved up to Class 2A in cross-country and track.

“That doesn’t mean there’s not somebody who’s rising up,” Emi said after Monday morning’s training run. “There are a lot of good runners.”

When I asked Emi about her goals this season, she replied with two. The first involved the team, which is of course what always matters the most.

“One of my goals as a captain is to be a good leader for our team and get more kids involved,” she said. “Another one of my goals is I want to win conference, section and state this year. I kind of want to do the whole shebang.” (Yes, she used the word “shebang.” Outstanding.)

The girls tennis team was practicing on courts at the school and the volleyballers were in the community center gym, where I asked coach Melissa Huseth about the start of a new season.

“Day one for me is just tremendous excitement,” she said. “The girls have been in the weight room and doing a bunch of volleyball stuff all summer. The night before our first day, I can’t sleep because I’m so excited.”

Day one was “intense,” said senior volleyball player Becca Vandenheuvel. “All these girls are determined, we all come in wanting to work hard. It’s great to see everyone again. We have six seniors, we’re ready to work hard.”

Later in the day, the football team practiced behind the school and the cheerleaders began learning their routines in front of the school. The football team will open the season Aug. 30 at home against Kasson-Mantorville, with the victor taking home the century-old Little Brown Jug.

At every stop, with every team, there was a grand mixture of intensity, fun, smiles and laughter.

As the girls soccer players went through the first practice in the history of the first team, Davisson was filled with energy; demonstrating, pushing, explaining, cheering.

“You’re going to just play,” she told the Bombers. “Pass to each other and talk to each other. Just play and have fun.”

Just play and have fun. That’s good advice, whether the team is 100 years old or just getting started.

--To see a photo gallery from Cannon Falls, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.


*Schools/teams John has visited: 1
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 112
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn
Preseason Rankings Arrive! Let The Season Begin! 8/11/2013
The first rankings of the 2013-14 school year are out, and congratulations to the state volleyball coaches association for being the first to email their rankings to me. This is a sure sign of the start of the fall season.

There are no surprises atop the three-class preseason volleyball rankings. Lakeville North (Class 3A), Marshall (2A) and Bethlehem Academy (1A) won state championships last season and they all stand at No. 1 in their classes as the 2013 season gets rolling.

To see the complete volleyball rankings in all three classes, check out the MSHSL Facebook page. Rankings in the other fall sports will also pop up on our Facebook pages as I receive them.

Let’s have a great year!
My Monday Plans Have Been Made: Heading To Cannon Falls8/7/2013
The Big Day is almost here, and by the Big Day I mean Monday, Aug. 12; the first date on the calendar that fall sports will swing into action across Minnesota. (Twenty-two football teams that will play Zero Week games began practice this past Monday.)

Monday will be loaded with action: girls and boys soccer, volleyball, boys and girls cross-country, girls tennis, girls swimming and diving and football all will kick off the 2013-14 year. A few days ago I put out the call here on John’s Journal for great story ideas on the Big Day. Without giving away too much right now … I will be at Cannon Falls High School on Monday, focusing on a couple of very special stories and hopefully spending time with every one of the Bombers’ fall sports teams and cheerleaders.

I received a great many emails with recommendations for me, and thanks to everyone who told me about their school and their stories. Here’s an assignment for everyone that will continue throughout the school year: Let me know what’s happening at your school and in your community. I’m always on the lookout for John’s Journal stories, and your input is always valuable.

I can’t wait to get going.


*Schools/teams John has visited: 0
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 0
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn
I Want To Visit Your School … Tell Me Why I Should8/1/2013
I’m ready to make plans for the day that will be the big kickoff to the 2013-14 year in MSHSL activities. Monday, Aug. 12, will mark the first official day of practice for fall sports teams ( 22 football teams that have scheduled Zero Week games will start on Aug. 5). The other fall sports are soccer, volleyball, cross-country, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving.

I’m hoping to spend Aug. 12 at one school – large or small, metro or outstate – that has great stories across a range of fall sports. It might be a school that had great success in fall sports last year … it might be a school that is expecting great success this fall … it might be a school that is fielding a varsity team(s) for the first time … it might be a school with fall coaches and/or athletes who have done great things on and/or off the field. If you think your school would be a good spot for me to visit, let me know.

A year ago, I spent the first day of fall practice in a new school district; Tri-City United brought together students from the formerly separate districts of Montgomery-Lonsdale and Le Center. I spent time with the football, volleyball, cross-country and girls tennis teams at Tri-City United, posting photos on the MSHSL Facebook page and writing a story for John’s Journal.

So here’s your chance: tell me why your school is special this fall. Send me an email; the address is Or if Twitter (as well as brevity) is your thing, fire a Tweet to @MSHSLjohn.
‘Why We Play’ Conferences Provide Opportunities For Coaches 7/30/2013
Minnesota high school coaches will have a rare chance to come together, learn and share information about what really matters in their profession, and I’m not talking about what the scoreboard says when the final horn blows.

A series of conferences called “Why We Play” will be held this week at two sites, sponsored by the MSHSL, the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association and the Minnesota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Nearly 700 coaches have registered. The conference will be presented twice this Thursday, Aug. 1, at Bethel University in St. Paul. The first session will begin at 8:15 a.m. and the second session will start at 3:15 p.m. A third session will be held Aug. 7 at Grand Rapids High School, beginning at 9 a.m.

“Coaches have limitless opportunities to provide students with meaningful, life-changing experiences,” said MSHSL associate director Jody Redman, who is the Why We Play coordinator. “This can only happen if coaches establish a clear coaching purpose and are intentional about providing students with more than physical skill development. They need to be aware that positive responses to student-athletes mistakes have a decided impact, they need to define their success by more than the outcome on the scoreboard, and they must become fully aware of the reasons why they coach the way they do.”

The format of the conferences includes guest speakers and small break-out sessions to explore ways to become purposeful coaches. Speakers include:

--Dr. Jeff Duke, an expert on the cultural influence of the coaching profession in our society. He has developed and authored the “3Dimensional Pyramid of Coaching Success” concept that has revolutionized the coaching landscape. He is a professor in the College of Education and Human Performance at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He will speak at the two Bethel University conferences about “Success as Coached Through the Lens of Joy.”

--Mark Hull, the Wisconsin state director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes and presenter for the FCA Coaches Academy and Three Dimensional Coaching, will speak at the Grand Rapids conference. He will open that conference with “Success: From Great to Good.”

--The co-founders of St. Paul-based Top 20 Training, Tom Cody and Willow Sweeney, will conduct multiple sessions at all three conferences. Since 2000, Top 20 Training has been empowering youth and adults to make a positive difference in the quality of their lives, relationships and experiences. They have trained more than 200,000 teachers and coaches nationwide. Cody and Sweeney will address “The Line: How Our Inner Life Determines Our Experience” and “Learning from Mistakes: Moving Outside Our Comfort Zone.”

Faculty members of the MSHSL’s Head Coaches Course -- who are athletics and activities directors of member schools -- will facilitate small-group breakout sessions.

Redman said, “These conferences are a tremendous opportunity for the League and our co-sponsors to reach a very important audience — coaches — with some exciting and innovative information that has the potential to change lives — their own and that of their student-athletes.”