John's Journal
Central Lakes Conference Takes The Lead On Sportsmanship, Leadership 8/28/2013
SARTELL – Every day should start with a bunch of high fives. That’s what took place Wednesday morning at the front doors of Sartell High School, where a group of Sartell athletes greeted fellow athletes from the nine schools of the Central Lakes Conference.

The schools – Alexandria, Brainerd, Fergus Falls, Rocori, St. Cloud Apollo, St. Cloud Tech, Sartell, Sauk Rapids-Rice and Willmar – each sent around 45 team captains and other leaders from 26 different sports to gather for five hours of learning, motivation, togetherness and fun at the Central Lakes Conference Sportsmanship/Leadership workshop. In total, about 400 athletes walked through the school doors, greeted with those high fives.

This is an outstanding concept. Other conferences around our state do similar things, but the Central Lakes athletic administrators put on a workshop that was top-notch. If any of the gathered athletes came away with nothing, then they weren’t even trying to pay attention. There was valuable information everywhere you looked.

MSHSL associate director Jody Redman opened the day with a presentation in the school auditorium on “Creating a culture of belonging.” Students learned about helping each other, their team and their school through working together and caring about everyone they meet on their journey.

The students then broke into eight small groups, which circulated through different areas of the school – the gym, band room, choir room, auxiliary gym, auditorium, etc. – for presentations by the conference’s athletic directors and others. The topics included Leadership, Sportsmanship, Character Education, Role Modeling, CPR Training, Benefits of Multi-Sport Participation and Responsible Use of Social Media.

One brief example of the lessons learned is the Sandwich Principle. That’s a device in which a conversation with a teammate begins with praise (“Thanks for working so hard today”), is followed by a message about correcting behavior (“If you got to practice on time every day, it would be a tremendous help to the team”) and ends with more praise (“You’re a talented athlete and you make our team better”).

The athletes listened, and they were charged with taking everything they learned back to their schools and their teammates. There are more than 10,000 students in grades nine through 12 in the Central Lakes Conference schools, and the 400 or so selected to attend the workshop are the true leaders in those schools.

As Alexandria activities director David Hartmann told the students during the session on leadership, “You are the leaders in your schools. You have the power.”

With the combination of those students and administrators, the conference is in good hands.

Postscript: As another symbol of the quality of the Central Lakes Conference, Alexandria High School on Tuesday was awarded the Exemplary Program Award from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Alexandria is only the 21st high school in the nation to receive this award and the very first from Minnesota.

The award is based on criteria in 10 categories: Philosophy, Educational Compatibility, Mentoring Staff and Student Leaders, Program Safety and Risk Management, Program Access and Equity, Budget and Supplemental Fundraising, Personnel and Program Assessment, Technology, Sports Medicine and Innovative and Creative Leadership Strategies.

Congratulations!

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

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 18
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 938
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn
A Warm Night For Volleyball As The Season Opens 8/27/2013
FARIBAULT – First things first: It was hot and humid inside the non-air-conditioned Van Orsow Auditorium on Tuesday evening when Lakeville North came to Bethlehem Academy to open the volleyball season. This was not a new experience for the B.A. Cardinals, who play volleyball in their gym throughout the spring and summer.

Lakeville North, on the other warm hand, has an air-conditioned gym in its school and plays almost all of its offseason volleyball in air-conditioned facilities. So guess who came out on top Tuesday?

Turned out that the climate had little to do with the outcome, as the Panthers defeated the Cardinals 25-9, 25-23, 25-21 in an opener between programs that are very familiar with state titles. B.A. is the two-time defending Class 1A state champion (the Cardinals also won titles in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009). Lakeville North won the 3A crown in 2010 and again last season.

So regardless of the indoor weather, this was first-rate volleyball … although neither team – probably not surprisingly – was not in midseason form. There were plenty of errors to go around, and the Panthers showed a nice closing push throughout.

The theme for B.A. went something like this: Start strong, hold a lead as sets reached the halfway pole, then throw a few airballs and other miscues as North took advantage.

“The frustration we have tonight is the inability to close out sets,” said Cardinals coach Franz Boelter. “And we’ve been fighting that all spring and summer. You can’t stop playing the way you were playing to get to that point, and we have a tendency to do that. Obviously, you see we have the ability to be very good. But we just buried ourselves in errors. They tried to help us out by returning the favor, but we just wouldn’t take it and walk through it.”

North coach Walt Weaver said his team played unsteady volleyball, which is no surprise as the season gets underway.

“There’s one in the victory column, and that’s a good start,” he said. “I think on both sides there is a lot of work to do. We have to get just more steady. There were way too many errors for a championship team. We’re a good team, but if we’re going to win the championship we’re going to have to cut down on mistakes.”

Bethlehem Academy lost all-state players Maddie Borwege and Jessie Mathews to graduation, and the Cardinals’ starting six Tuesday consisted of one senior, four juniors and a ninth-grader. North also has several holes to fill, but all-everything hitter Alyssa Goehner is back for her senior year. She led the way Tuesday with 22 kills – several from the back row – and had three ace serves. First-year varsity setter Anna Michaels had 24 assists for the Panthers.

“With our new kids it’s going to be a different road this year,” Weaver said. “But as long as they understand and we can keep somebody off balance when we really have to, that’s the thing. Had (Bathlehem Academy) played the way they played at the very end of the game the way they played in the middle, I don’t know if we could have done that."

--To see photos (and a video of Alyssa Goehner), go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 9
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 738
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn
Friday Was A Pretty Fair Day For Jackson County Central8/24/2013
When I talked on the phone with Nolan Hohenstein on Wednesday, the Jackson County Central senior football player was adamant that he was not going to miss Friday night’s season opener at St. Louis Park.

“I’ll be there,” said the 6-foot-4, 275-pound two-way starting lineman. “I might be there a little late but I’ll be there.”

He had a competitive conflict, as did senior wide receiver Scott Christopher. They were showing livestock at the Minnesota State Fair and getting across town to the game might be dicey. Christopher, in fact, did not make it to the game because he was winning a blue ribbon with his blackface lamb at the same time.

Hohenstein (pictured) got to the field just in time, driving from the fair with his parents. He used a porta-potty as a locker room, putting his pads on and jogging onto the new turf field at St. Louis Park about 15 minutes before kickoff.

“I was trying to stay calm,” he said after Class 2A Jackson County Central defeated Class 5A St. Louis Park 21-7. “My nerves were getting to me a little bit and I was getting pumped up. We got over here quick, got dressed and got ready for the game.”

Oh, he also had a winning day in the swine barn. His crossbred barrow was named reserved middleweight champion, reserved crossbred champion and finished third overall.

Nolan was glad that he was able to sleep in a bit Friday morning … which for him meant not waking up until 7 a.m. “But it was a long day, showing all day. It was rough getting here but I got here.”

The fair wouldn’t have presented a conflict if not for Zero Week, in which 22 Minnesota football teams began the season a week earlier than the rest. But it’s a good thing the JCC Huskies played their opener so close to the fairgrounds.

Christopher (pictured) and Hohenstein have been on the fairgrounds since midweek and will head home Sunday. Scott was disappointed to miss the game, but he vowed he won’t miss any more.

“It was really hard,” he said. I’ve had a month to think about it. It’s just the way my sheep started looking better.”

The rewards at the fair include more than ribbons and titles. Some of the top animals are sold at auction, often for thousands of dollars.

Huskies coach Tom Schuller – whose team reached the 2A state semifinals at the Metrodome last season – was glad to see Hohenstein arrive but said the Huskies missed Christopher’s presence.

“Scott has had a great fall for us,” Schuller said. “He’s been one of our most effective receivers and he also gives us a little bit of spelling at d-back.”

The Huskies had plenty of firepower against St. Louis Park. They controlled the game with a dominating ground game; Keegan Moore carried 16 times for 119 yards and a touchdown and Luke Norland ran 25 times for 102 yards and two scores. In total yards, the Huskies outgained the Orioles 332 to 154. St. Louis Park, which has never reached the state playoffs, is large enough to play 5A football but the Orioles’ best season in the last decade was a 4-5 record in 2008.

“I was extremely pleased with the effort, to be sure,” Schuller said. “For a first game, I thought we played really well. (The Orioles) are in the midst of building a program and getting more kids out. If you’re going to play 5A football you’ve got to have all one-way players and they’re not there yet. They’re in progress right now.”

Behind Jackson’s ground game are linemen like Hohenstein and Matt Schmit, a 6-5, 235-pound senior. They are experienced, smart football players.

“Nolan’s played since he’s been a sophomore and he’s a great two-way player,” Schuller said. “We saw what life was like without him this week in practice and it was a little bit scary. Put him beside Matt Schmit and you’re talking about two 4.0 students who work really hard in the weight room. They’re really well-rounded student-athletes.”

After Friday’s game, the large contingent of Huskies fans walked onto the field to congratulate their boys. They gathered in one end zone, smiling, laughing and talking about football and farm life.

“We got through the fair,” Schuller said. “I think Honie’s pig did great. I don’t know how the lamb did for Christopher, but we got the animals all racked up and ready and we won the football game, so it was a great night for us.”

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

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 7
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 668
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn

Zero Week Football Results8/23/2013
The 2013 football season began Friday evening with 11 Zero Week games. Here are the scores ...

Caledonia 19, Chatfield 18
Edina 40, Holy Angels 0
Hayfield 21, Goodhue 20
Chaska 41, Hopkins 39
Minnetonka 43, Hudson, Wis., 23
Jackson County Central 21, St. Louis Park 7
Wabasha-Kellogg 47, Kingsland 12
Luverne 28, New Ulm 6
Pipestone 32, St. James 26
Rushford-Peterson 28, Southland 20
St. Agnes 34, Spectrum 16
Father, Son And Football: The Rostbergs Of Hutchinson8/22/2013
HUTCHINSON – Old-timers in town can recall when the football coach at Hutchinson High School was not named Rostberg, but they have to go back through their memory banks. All the way back to before 1969, when young Grady Rostberg became coach of the Tigers.

Forty-four years later, Grady and his son Andy – who took over when his dad retired in 1999 – have combined to win exactly 400 games. How’s that for family history and a nice round number? Or this: The Rostbergs are the only father and son coaching combo in Minnesota to win football state championships.

Grady took the Tigers to the state tournament 11 times between 1973 and 1998, winning state championships in 1983, 1984 and 1998. He had coached at nearby Brownton before coming to Hutchinson and his 34-year career record is 277-89-1. He was inducted into the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1999.

Andy, who played quarterback on the 1983 and 1984 state championship teams, was an assistant coach when the Tigers won the title in 1998. As a head coach he has taken five teams to state and last year’s Tigers won the Class 4A championship. His career record over 14 years is 123-34-0.

“I kept telling him before last year, ‘You haven’t won the big one yet,’ ” Grady said with a smile. “It was really exciting. He’s been kind of knocking at the door with some teams and never been able to quite finish it off. It was really fun.”

Grady grew up in Gilby, N.D., and was a three-sport athlete at Mayville State in North Dakota. After college he taught and coached basketball for one year in Hatton, N.D, then went to graduate school at the University of North Dakota.

He may have never left North Dakota – much less ended up in Hutchinson – without a touch of serendipity. The principal in Hatton had taken a job at Brownton … and in 1963 Grady was also in Brownton. A few years later, it was a short hop of 12 miles when he moved to Hutchinson.

Grady and his wife Sharon raised their son and two daughters in Hutchinson, and last year’s Prep Bowl was a real treat for everybody. With three generations gathered in a hotel near the Metrodome, Sharon took care of Thanksgiving dinner and Andy took care of winning his first state title as a head coach.

“Having it happen, but being able to have your dad with you, it was pretty cool, it really was,” Andy said. "The longer you go, you understand just how hard it is to do it. Even when your team is really, really good you still might not win it; you’ve got to get lucky, a lot of things have to fall into place.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to say my dad won one and so did I and to have been able to go through that with him. Some of the greatest times aren’t at practice or games, it’s on a Saturday morning or when you’re hunting pheasant or fishing or whatever and we visit about the last game or the upcoming game and things like that.”

Grady’s first team in Hutchinson was winless in eight games, and the Tigers had a losing record a year later. But for the next 39 years – spanning two generations of Rostbergs -- every Hutchinson football team had a winning record until the 2010 squad finished 4-5. A year later the Tigers were 9-1 and last year they won it all.

“We learned that you’re only as good as your last season,” Andy said. “I guess another thing we learned is there’s a fine line between 9-1 and 4-5. You just have to work hard and get your kids working hard. I learned that they do not like to lose in Hutchinson. There probably aren’t a whole lot of towns that take football more seriously then people in Hutch do. It’s pretty serious here.”

Grady stays involved as a volunteer assistant coach, or as he puts it, “I get a free ticket in the press box every Friday night.” He wore a 1998 Hutchinson state championship sweatshirt for last year’s Prep Bowl, in which the Tigers defeated Holy Family Catholic 67-7 to complete a 13-0 season.

Asked about what he learned from his father, Andy said, “Probably the biggest thing I learned was to be able to deal with adversity, to not let a negative affect the next play. And try to have a calm demeanor. I am calmer than he was but he had the ability to -- when the situation was really dire or really tense or it was the last play of a game or a thing like that -- he had great focus. He could shut everything else out.”

Grady agrees that Andy is a quieter, calmer coach than his father was.

“I was a little more fiery and he’s pretty laid back. I think it’s inside him, he has passion inside but he doesn’t let it out too much. Things have changed over the years, but kids are still kids.”

Both Rostbergs also coached basketball; Andy’s most famous former player is Hutchinson graduate and Minnesota Lynx star Lindsay Whalen. “It was pretty easy to coach her,” he said.

Grady, who also coached baseball for a few years, remembers the one season in which he coached basketball at Hatton. “We had a good team and we lost in the district finals by one point,” he said. “The other team made something like 25 of 26 free throws and I thought you had to be nuts to coach this sport.”

After playing football and baseball at North Dakota State, Andy Rostberg began his coaching career at Redwood Falls in 1992. A year later he was on his father’s coaching staff in Hutchinson.

Andy served as head coach of the South team for this summer’s high school all-star football game at St. Cloud State. He first participated in the all-star game as a player in 1985, making him the second individual to play and serve as a head coach in the game. The other was Dick Lawrence of Eveleth, who played in 1945 and coached in 1974.The all-star assistant coaches come from all over the state, and this year’s group included Andy’s dad along with Hutchinson assistant coach David Larson.

Expectations for this year’s Hutchinson team are high, with lots of experience returning from the state title team. If the Tigers repeat as Class 4A champions, the back-to-back titles would equal the 1983 and 1984 teams.

“We don’t beat around the bush a whole lot,” Andy said. “I told the kids, ‘Guess what everyone expects this year? They expect you to win it. Everybody’s shooting for you.’

“We told the kids you have to be better than last year, and our kids take it very seriously. They’ve worked extremely hard in the offseason. They’re not resting on 2012.”

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 5
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 572
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn