John's Journal
A Never-Ending Day In The Life Of An Athletic Director9/14/2011
I was walking across a large parking lot at Eastview High School on Tuesday evening – going from a volleyball match in the gym to a soccer game in the stadium -- when a minivan pulled up beside me. The friendly driver said, “Hey John, you want a ride?” Matt Percival, the athletic director at Eastview in Apple Valley, was on the move again.

Eastview’s fifth-year athletic director is typical of the people who hold these important positions. Athletic and activity directors work long days, juggle multiple tasks and do much of their work behind the scenes. The public does not often realize what must take place before a game begins, but athletic directors certainly do. And Percival, like his colleagues, knows that athletic directors can’t do it all alone.

“The key without a doubt is having all the other people who help out. If you end up being the one person, it’s impossible,” he said. “You rely on lots of folks.”

When Percival gave me a lift, it was just part of his typical workday. His alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. and many days he does not return home until 9:30 p.m. or later. His wife, Robin Percival, is the principal at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, and they have two daughters; Katie is in second grade and Emily is in kindergarten.

Emily had a soccer game Tuesday evening, and she and Katie were buckled into their car seats when I hitched a ride across the parking lot. Matt had taken a one-hour respite from his Eastview duties to coach at Emily’s game.

Percival (pictured at right) spends 30 minutes every morning working out on an elliptical machine in his basement while watching SportsCenter on ESPN. “That 30 minutes of quiet time by myself is a pretty good thing,” he said.

Before arriving at Eastview around 7 a.m., “We get the kids up and going, walk the dog and drop the kids off at school. One big milestone for us is having both kids in the same school this year. That’s a huge accomplishment. This is a breeze right now.”

Every day as an athletic director is interesting, but Monday had been particularly trying because all email and telephone systems at Eastview – as well as at all schools in District 196, which includes Apple Valley, Eagan and Rosemount high schools – were down all day. Cutting off communication makes an administrator’s job even tougher.

Percival, 39, has been at Eastview since the school opened in 1997. He taught social studies and is a former softball and hockey coach. I asked him to describe what Tuesday was like for him, and it was a whirlwind of decisions and action…

“Any time we have home events Joan (his administrative assistant, Joan Beckmann) and I spend some time making sure we have workers for everything. The assigners from the officials associations help us so much, and we become assigners when it comes to event workers. This morning we were trying to find and recruit some folks. Without a doubt, the part of this job I enjoy most is the people.”

Eastview girls tennis coach Jeff Olsen had received some bad news from his doctor on Monday, and he had to step away from coaching temporarily. “The doctor’s instruction was to eliminate anything that may cause stress,” Percival said. So he had to make sure an assistant tennis coach would take over.

Tuesday’s schedule was packed with home events against teams from Bloomington Jefferson: Girls tennis at 3:30, girls soccer at 5, and volleyball and boys soccer at 7. But Percival is also an assistant principal, working with social studies, physical education and business staff.

“This morning I did some classroom walkthroughs and observations,” he said. “I was probably in and out of 10 classrooms this morning, and I spent time chatting with teachers and kids.”

Before lunch he looked at his emails – some of which had been sent a day earlier when the system was down – and then spent a little more than an hour monitoring the lunchroom. “That’s a good time talking to lots of kids,” he said.

He was interviewed about sportsmanship by students who work on a school television program and met with a few student-athletes who were, as he put it, “not meeting all expectations.”

He was on the tennis courts before the matches against Jefferson began, drove home to meet his kids when they got off the school bus and brought them back to Eastview. He checked in with the girls soccer teams and officials at 4:30 to make sure everything was ready for their 5 o’clock game.

Shortly before 6 p.m., Percival and his daughters drove to Emily’s soccer game. Once the game was finished and snacks were handed to the kids, it was back to Eastview. Former Eastview AD Bruce Miller, now an assistant principal, helped keep an eye on things while Percival was away.

Percival spent most of the evening at the boys soccer game, but checked in on the volleyball match during its late stages. After it ended and the gym was clearing, he headed back to the stadium for the second half of boys soccer. He guessed that by 9:30 – barring overtimes and other unforeseen consequences – the stadium would be quiet.

“We’ll lock it up, shut off the lights and do it again tomorrow.”

While Matt was tending to his duties, Robin was going to a second-grade open house at the kids’ school and attending a 7 p.m. meeting at Henry Sibley.

“And sooner or later we’ll see each other, have dinner, get the kids tucked in and get some sleep,” Matt said.

Monday night, Matt’s dinner was from Jimmy John’s and Robin brought home food from Chipotle.

And today, just like every other day for every athletic director in the state, they’re doing it all over again.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 28
*Miles John has driven: 1,615

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Osseo Honors John Hansen, 40-Year Coach/Choral Director9/13/2011
John Hansen had a difficult time putting his emotions into words. In less than an hour, the football stadium at Osseo High School would officially bear his name, and Hansen was searching for a way to describe his feelings.

“Unreal” was the first word he discovered. “It’s hard for me to take it all in and understand that this is really happening,” he said. “It’s like a dream come true.”

It happened last Friday before Osseo hosted Park Center in the Orioles’ first home game of the season. The stadium has been known for decades as Carl A. Tonn Field, named after a prominent school board member who served from 1948 to 1966.

Hansen’s name was added to the facility -- now known as John D. Hansen Stadium at Carl Tonn Field – for one good reason. No, make that two good reasons: Hansen was not only Osseo’s football coach for 40 years, he also was the school’s choral music director for the same period of time. From 1952 until 1992, Hansen served countless numbers of students in athletics as well as music.

Jim Tonn, son of Carl Tonn (who died in 2001), was one of many former athletes and singers who were on hand for Friday’s stadium dedication. Jim was the captain of John’s first championship team in 1954.

“John is a fine man, to say the least,” Jim Tonn said. “My dad and John were the best of friends.”

Friday’s pregame ceremony was very special. The Tonn family was recognized and given a new plaque that honors Carl, and Hansen (pictured with his wife Bev) received a similar plaque bearing the new name of the stadium. The national anthem was sung by current Osseo music students as well as many former students of Hansen’s. Seeing all the people whose lives were touched by Hansen was a tribute to a great educator and a great person.

“John Hansen was the best football coach. All you heard growing up was getting to play for coach Hansen,” said Mike Korton, a 1989 grad who was named Osseo’s male athlete of the year as a senior. Korton is now the head football at Champlin Park High School, and his presence at Friday’s ceremony said everything about how he feels toward Hansen.

The ceremony began at 4:45 p.m., with kickoff scheduled for 5 p.m. Champlin Park had a 7 o'clock home game that night, but Korton was missing the preparation for his team’s game to honor Hansen.

“I know I’m supposed to be at pregame right now with my kids,” Korton said. “But my kids understand where I am. I grew up three blocks from here, so I’d sit on my steps as a little kid and listen to the games and wonder, ‘What’s that going on? It sounds like a circus up there.’ And you grow up wanting to become part of the circus. And it was great.

“Coach Hansen never did anything wrong. He always respected everybody, he treated you like you wanted to be treated. I hope I can be a coach like him someday. I don’t know if I can do it for 40 years, though.”

When Korton played for Hansen, Craig Hansen (no relation) was the offensive line coach. Hansen went on to a long career as the head coach at Maple Grove, where he retired from coaching after last season.

“John Hansen and Craig Hansen had a big impact on me,” Korton said. “I told them I was going to become a coach.”

The newly named Hansen-Tonn facility was built in 1970, and before that the football field was where the baseball field outfield now stands. Hansen retired with a record 259-105-13, making him the winningest football coach in Minnesota at the time. As the 2011 season began, he was tied for 12th on the all-time list.

Hansen’s teams were undefeated in 1963, 1969 and 1970, winning the mythical state title in 1970 (before playoffs began). In 1986 the Orioles played at the Metrodome in the Prep Bowl, losing to Apple Valley.

“When I was in high school, if anybody had told me that I was going to be a music teacher, I would have told them they were crazy” said Hansen, a 1946 graduate of St. Louis Park. “I enjoyed music very much, I sang in the choir and also played football, basketball, track. That was kind of my main interest, yet I really loved the music part of it, I loved to sing.”

He was in the Navy for two years after high school, then went to Hamline University in St. Paul. After graduating from Hamline, he was hired by Osseo to fill the two jobs he held for 40 years.

“Being in the Navy gave me a chance to kind of grow up a little bit and in my mind decide what to do as far as my life,” he said. “My two main interests were music and athletics, and that’s exactly what I went into. I found that I enjoyed both of them equally, and there were some great performers in both of them.

“It was just a treat to go to work every day, and that’s why I didn’t retire early. I loved it, I really did. I just loved it.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 24
*Miles John has driven: 1,604

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Filling Holy Family’s Football Schedule: A Tough Year, An Easy Year9/12/2011
The Holy Family Catholic football team had so much trouble filling its 2011 football schedule that on Saturday the Fire hosted a team from Escanaba, Michigan. But a few days before that game, the schedule for 2012 was already set.

Big relief? There’s no question, because Holy Family athletic director Matt Thuli had spent countless hours trying to line up eight regular-season games for this season.

The Fire is in a transition phase between conferences. The school left the Minnesota River Conference after last year and will become a full-sport member of the Wright County in the spring. Filling the current football schedule was quite a tussle, and Saturday’s game against the Escanaba Eskymos (a 50-14 Holy Family victory) was symbolic of that struggle.

Escanaba is a seven-hour drive from Holy Family, which is in the western Twin Cities suburb of Victoria. A former Holy Family assistant coach was from the Escanaba area, and last spring he learned that the Eskymos were looking to fill their schedule, too. Holy Family coach Dave Hopkins phoned Escanaba coach Dan Flynn, and before long Saturday’s game was on the schedule.

Holy Family helped pay some of Escanaba’s transportation costs and also provided pizza and drinks for the Eskymos’ postgame bus ride.

Holy Family, a Class 3A football team, also found games against five other Minnesota 3A schools (Watertown-Mayer, New Ulm, New London-Spicer, Esko, Waseca) and two from Class 4A (St. Thomas Academy, Duluth Denfeld). Six of the eight games are at home, which is one nice quirk. Thuli said locking up games with Watertown-Mayer, New Ulm, Waseca and New London-Spicer happened quickly. But filling the other four other slots on the schedule was a long, hard slog.

“We explored quite a bit with Zero Week with a couple schools,” he said. “We talked a little bit to (5A defending state champion) Wayzata, but we were thinking, ‘Do we need that (playing a much larger team)?’”

Thuli had discussions with several other schools, and Zero Week was part of many of those talks. “In each case, and it’s no fault to either school, for one or the other it just wasn’t the right fit so we never pulled the trigger on Zero Week,” he said.

Holy Family will help Duluth Denfeld pay its travel expenses when the Hunters come to Victoria for the Oct. 19 regular-season finale.

“It was a lot of work,” Thuli said of filling the schedule. “With football there’s a little more physicality. In basketball if you get beat by 50, feelings might be hurt but you won’t walk away with kids hurt.”

The 2012 Wright County Conference football schedule was finalized last week, and you know what that means for Holy Family.

“I already know my football schedule for next year,” Thuli said.

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

*Schools/teams John has visited: 21
*Miles John has driven: 1,569

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Another Swap At The Top Of 3A Volleyball Rankings9/12/2011
Lakeville North and Bloomington Jefferson have traded places atop the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association Class 3A rankings this season, and North reclaimed the top spot this week after defeating Jefferson in Saturday’s championship match of the Southwest Minnesota Challenge in Marshall.

North, which beat No. 3 Wayzata in the tournament semifinals, had been No. 1 in the first ranking of the season before dropping to No. 2 behind Jefferson. Saturday’s loss was the first of the season for Jefferson; Lakeville North is undefeated.

In the Class 2A rankings, Jackson County Central retained the No. 1 spot despite two losses at a weekend tournament in Shakopee. The Huskies fell to Bethlehem Academy (No. 1in 1A) in the tournament and lost to Eagan (No. 9 in 3A) in the third-place match. LeSueur-Henderson made a big move in the 2A poll this week, climbing from fourth to second.

Bethlehem Academy kept its hold on the top spot in 1A, while Mayer Lutheran rose from No. 4 to No. 2.

Here are this week’s rankings …

1. Lakeville North (12) 194
2. Bloomington Jefferson (1) 181
3. Wayzata 171
4. Shakopee 147
5. Blaine 144
6. Lakeville South 131
7. Centennial 94
8. Andover 78
9. Eagan 73
10. Eden Prairie 66
Others: Chanhassen (58), Waconia (25), Hopkins (22), Hill-Murray (12), Hutchinson (2), Totino-Grace (1)

1. Jackson County Central (6) 182
2. Lesuer-Henderson (1) 171
3. Belle Plaine (3) 170
4. Marshall (1) 167
5. Stewartville (2) 155
6. Kasson-Mantorville 125
7. Caledonia 90
8. Maple Lake 83
9. Byron 65
10. Wadena-Deer Creek 59
Others: Jordan (53), Visitation (45), Triton (12), Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (8)

1. Bethlehem Academy (11) 193
2. Mayer Lutheran 171
3. Wabasha-Kellogg (1) 170
4. Nevis (1) 145
5. Minneota 136
6. Southwest Christian 118
7. Canby 114
8. Ada-Borup 99
9. BBE 98
10. Win-E-Mac 89
Others: MACCRAY (25), Hancock (7), Mabel-Canton (5)
Two Great Coaches, Two More Reasons To Love High School Activities9/9/2011
A quick note, recapping two excellent moments from Friday’s football festivities …

I witnessed two football games on Friday. The first one, with a 5 p.m. kickoff, was Park Center at Osseo. In a wonderful pregame ceremony (which I will be writing about), Osseo’s Carl A. Tonn Field – named for a past school board member and prominent Osseo supporter – was rededicated as John Hansen Stadium at Carl A. Tonn Field.

John Hansen was Osseo’s football coach as well as director of choral music for 40 years before retiring in 1992. Many of John’s former players and singers were on hand for the pregame ceremony. Among them was Osseo grad Mike Korton, who is the head football coach at Champlin Park. Even though Champlin Park had a home game Friday against Maple Grove, Mike wanted to support his high school coach … even it meant missing most of the pregame activities and warm-ups at his own game. That’s a pretty special tribute.

My second game of the day was Wayzata at Eagan, starting at 7. I was standing on the Wayzata sideline during the second quarter when Trojans coach Brad Wayzata (right) saw me. He smiled, we shook hands and chatted. This was quite extraordinary; while the game was going on, I asked Brad about his daughter Barrett, with whom I had chatted after Wayzata games in the past couple years. Brad told me Barrett (who is interested in journalism) is a freshman at Kansas, and he was planning to drive to Kansas after Friday’s game to see her.

Our conversation happened while Wayzata’s defense on the field. Brad runs the offense, and as Eagan lined up to punt, Brad slapped me on the back, smiled again and hustled back down the sideline to have a word with his offensive players.

How neat is that? One coach taking time away from his own team to honor his old coach, and another coach chatting with a scribe during a game as if they were standing on a street corner.

Boy, I love this job…

*Schools/teams John has visited: 19
*Miles John has driven: 1,501

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