John's Journal
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.”
Looking Ahead to Zero Week Football Games7/21/2013
Happy summer, everybody! I’m still taking some vacation time, but I’ve been looking ahead to the start of the fall sports season.

First on tap will be 11 Zero Week football games on Aug. 23; the 22 teams involved will begin practice one week before the rest of the state’s football teams and all other fall sports teams.

The Zero Week football teams will open practice on Aug. 5. All other fall teams will get going on Aug. 12

Here’s the Aug. 23 Zero Week game schedule …

Chatfield at Caledonia, 7 p.m.
Edina at Holy Angels, 7 p.m.
Hayfield at Goodhue, 7 p.m.
Hopkins at Chaska, 7 p.m.
Hudson, Wis., at Minnetonka, 7 p.m.
Jackson County Central at St. Louis Park, 7 p.m.
Kingsland at Wabasha-Kellogg, 7 p.m.
New Ulm at Luverne, 7 p.m.
Pipestone at St. James, 7 p.m.
Rushford-Peterson at Southland, 7 p.m.
Spectrum vs. St. Agnes at Concordia University, St. Paul, 7:30 p.m.
The Year In Review: Time For The Best Of The Best7/3/2013
I’ve been reliving the 2012-13 school year by sifting through the stories posted on John’s Journal; more than 200 of them since August. They provide a great reminder of the amazing things that take place every day across our state, and I am honored and humbled to write about all the people and places that make high school activities in Minnesota so special.

After driving nearly 10,500 miles during 2012-13 to schools, games and fine arts activities, I am ready to squeeze in a little summer vacation time. The time will go quickly and before you know it the 2013-14 calendar will be upon us. But before that happens, let’s look back at 2012-13 …

Shortly before the start of the 2011 season, St. Clair officials – noting a roster short on numbers and size -- forfeited all varsity games and played only junior varsity contests. In 2012, the Cyclones returned to varsity action and advanced to the Class 1A state playoffs.

When the Osseo Orioles (enrollment of almost 2,000 students) traveled to Nevis (fewer than 150), it was more than a volleyball match. The weekend included both teams coming together for pizza, a hayride, a football game, a bonfire, breakfast and finally a volleyball match. As Osseo coach Bill Quan explained, “Nevis opened its arms and put us first.”

Matt is legally blind, but that doesn’t stop him from competing on the wrestling and cross-country teams. He runs with a “guide” runner, both hanging onto a lanyard which keeps them connected yet allows each to run freely.

The 1952 Buffalo Bison played eight football games, winning seven and having one end in a scoreless tie. The most remarkable statistic is this: They did not give up a point all season. Sixty years later, they gathered as honored homecoming guests.

Franz Boelter of Bethlehem Academy, Dan Westby of Marshall and Walt Weaver of Lakeville North led their teams to state volleyball championships on the same day in November. All three are class people and great ambassadors for their schools and their sport.

One family in Breckenridge was very grateful for the blessings they have received. They are especially thankful that the phrase “cancer-free” can now be spoken. Jack Hiedeman, 16, who plays football, basketball and baseball at Breckenridge, was diagnosed with lymphoma in May 2011. Jack completed cancer treatments in 2012. “We live in a community that kept Jack in their prayers all the time,” said his mother, Ann. “We always felt great support from the town and the school.”

During an interview early in the basketball season, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva star Carlie Wagner was asked this question: Looking back to two years ago, how is your life different? “What’s different? I have more Facebook friends, that’s about the only thing that’s different.”

The senior hockey goaltender is quick on her skates, she uses her stick to efficiently sweep away pucks and has a great glove hand … even though there is no hand inside the glove. Caitlin was born without a right hand.

When Rhett McDonald was named boys basketball coach at Duluth East, he became the third branch of Minnesota’s No. 1 coaching family. His grandfather is Chisholm’s Bob McDonald, who has coached for 57 years. Rhett McDonald was coached by his father, Mike, at Cambridge-Isanti High School.

Harvey became a teacher and coach in Fulda in 1980. He taught sixth grade and was head or assistant coach of basketball, football and track teams. He helped run the elementary basketball program, had a hand in summer recreation programs and worked as a volleyball official for 10 years. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2005, and on a winter Saturday he was honored at a girls-boys basketball doubleheader and fundraiser.

Minnetonka came away with a 4-3 victory in the state semifinals, scoring the game-winner in the sixth overtime around 1 a.m. Remarkably, both teams played again – and won – later that same day.

The KoMets won their first state title a short time after 14 of them were trapped in a hotel elevator. “For the first five minutes, it was fun,” said Noah Ryan, “and then we got worried.”

Before the Cardinals’ first trip to the girls state basketball tournament, Kaelin was a reserve who averaged 2.53 points and had made seven three-point shots all season. But in Upsala’s 66-51 loss to Bethlehem Academy, she scored a game-high 23 points and made seven of 10 three-point shots (tying the tournament record for three-point baskets).

Before the Warriors met Apple Valley in the boys basketball state quarterfinals, the players and coaches did what they always do, standing in a semi-circle on the three-point line, hands on their hearts. After losing the game, the giant contingent of Brainerd fans stood and applauded their boys.

Since 1968, Mike has called the boys state basketball tourney every year but one for KDHL in Faribault. That’s 45 years and a heck of a run. Mike has now retired and he will be missed .

The St. Francis athlete, who finished her career as the state record-holder in the discus and shot put, was asked about competing when she knew no one else could come close to her distances. “For me, throwing is not about winning the meet, it’s about doing better than I’ve ever done,” she said. “I just want to do better than I did before, even if it’s an inch.”

As bad spring weather wiped out all sorts of events, the Cardinals (enrollment 74) made a 300-mile round trip to compete at Minnetonka’s Joe Lane Invitational against the host school (2,750 students), Burnsville (2,530), Rochester Century (1,275) and Minneapolis Patrick Henry (747).

The senior from Houston was asked about her injuries from a February car accident. “My elbow, my jaw, my nose, my eye, my foot, my ankle, my femur. And my fibula, because the emergency brake went through my shin.” Amazingly, she was back on the softball field 11 weeks later. “She is hands down the toughest kid I have ever met,” Houston athletic director Casey Indra said.

Wessel collapsed on the field during a game in Wadena, died twice and was brought back to life, thanks to people in the stands who rushed to his rescue. Jay Stewart of Glenwood and Gary Bentz of Browerville are trained first responders, as is Long Prairie police officer Ryan Hanson.

“I have never seen anyone die before and he died twice, right in front of me, said Daryl Oja, Dan’s umpiring partner. “He was not breathing or responding and they were able to bring him back. Those three guys are heroes because they knew what they were doing.”

Dan underwent triple-bypass surgery and will recover completely. There’s no better ending than that.


*Schools/teams John has visited: 747
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,628
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
New Coaches At Andover And New ADs In Region 1A7/1/2013
It was announced last week that Andover boys basketball coach Nick Tibesar had been named interim coach at Wayzata, where Phil Ward stepped down after 17 seasons.

Tibesar, a former Wayzata assistant coach, was Andover's head coach for the past two years and led the Huskies to the state tournament last season.

Andover has named Matt Aune as the Huskies' new boys basketball coach. Aune has been an assistant coach at Andover since 2008.

Also, Robb Belschner has been named girls’ basketball coach after the resignation of Ray Brodeur. Like Aune, Belschner has been an assistant coach at Andover.

--Several new activities directors have been named at schools in Region 1A in southeastern Minnesota. They are ...

Caledonia – Paul DeMorett

Chatfield – Dan Schindler

Leroy-Ostrander – Joseph Kuechenmeister

Rushford-Peterson – Dan Bieberdorf