Proud to be a Rebel

Published 10:11 am Monday, December 8, 2014

Dick Strand speaks to the Southland football team.  Photos Provided

Dick Strand speaks to the Southland football team. Photos Provided

Whenever the Barnesville Trojans were playing a high school football game in the last few years, you could always count on one thing — Dick Strand was there watching his son Bryan Strand coach.

Bryan, who is the head football coach at Barnesville High School in Minnesota, said Dick would come to every game and watch from the end zone in his car. Even if the game was a lop-sided blowout, Dick would at least stay until halftime.

This last Monday, when it was decided Dick be taken off his ventilator due to heart problems, Bryan decided to put on the Monday night football game, so his dad could listen to it before he passed away. Sure enough, Dick, who had coached the Southland football team from 1973-2003, made it until halftime before he passed away that night.

Bryan learned a lot about coaching from his dad as he played for the Southland Rebels under his father. Bryan has had some success at Barnesville as he coached the team to a Class A runner-up finish in 2010.

Dick Strand is carried off the field after the Southland Rebels won the 1983 Class C state football championship.  Photo Provided

Dick Strand is carried off the field after the Southland Rebels won the 1983 Class C state football championship. Photo Provided

“He was everything,” Bryan said of his dad. “He genuinely cared about his players in and out of school. Of all of the traits I got from my father, that’s the one I’m most proud of.”

Dick finished his Southland football coaching career with 194 career wins, and he led the Rebels to a state title in 1983.

Scott Retterath, who coached the Rebel baseball team to a second place finish at the state tournament in 2008, was the quarterback of that squad. He remembered Dick as a coach who cared about his team and was able to get the best performances out of his players.

“Dick was always one of the coaches who would really listen to what you had to say,” Retterath said. “He cared tremendously about all of the players. Not only the kids who played a lot, but everybody on the team. Everyone was treated fairly. I didn’t know too many kids that didn’t want to play for him. He was just an all-around good guy. He was tough when he had to be and there’s kind of a fine line there. There’s a time to be a real tough disciplinarian and then there’s a time when you’ve got to put on the kids’ gloves and tread lightly. He knew where that line was.”

Bryan wasn’t sure he wanted to get into coaching when he was in college, but at the urging of his dad, he ended up doing it. He also met his wife and got his first job thanks to his dad’s coaching career. A coach who had once coached against Dick in the Minnesota All-Star game offered Bryan his first teaching job and Bryan ended up marrying that coach’s daughter.

“My dad [said] we should’ve named our first daughter Star, because she came from that All-Star game,” Bryan said.

Dick Strand, left, was an honorary coach against his grandson Michael, middle, at the last Minnesota North-South All-Star football game.

Dick Strand, left, was an honorary coach against his grandson Michael, middle, at the last Minnesota North-South All-Star football game.

Bryan, who grew up as Southland’s ball boy and manger before he was able to get on the field, saw how much his dad respected and liked Southland High School. Dick moved back to his home in Mayville, N.D. to take care of his parents, but he still followed the Rebels and he kept the team near to his heart.

“He was the proudest person to be a Southland Rebel and he was always true to who he was,” Bryan said.

John Leisen, who coached the middle school football team during Dick’s era, said football was always on Dick’s mind and his two greatest loves were his son Bryan and the Southland Rebel football team.

Leisen said that Dick was a pleasure to coach with.

“When Dick retired a lot of people were sad to see him go. Dick just had a knack to get along with everybody,” Leisen said.

Besides being a great football coach, Dick was also a very generous man who would help anyone who was in need.

“He would do anything for any amount of money to help people,” Bryan said. “But he would never ask for help from anyone else.”

Each of Bryan’s sons have played college football and Bryan’s oldest son is looking to get into teaching and coaching, just like his grandpa.